Friday, March 5, 2021

IHSA sued over brain trauma (concussions) from football


A class-action lawsuit has been filed against the Illinois High School Association on behalf of a former football player at Notre Dame College Prep who, 10 years after his last high school game, still suffers from migraines and memory loss as a result of concussions he suffered during his high school football career, CNN reports.

The suit marks the first time a state high school association has been sued over its improper management of head injury or concussion protocols, but some people have said the lawsuit was inevitable. Brain injuries during adolescence are, in some doctors’ estimation, more serious because the brain is undergoing crucial developmental changes during those years.

A literature review published in the November/December issue of Current Sports Medicine Reports says, “Younger athletes may take longer to recover from a sports-related concussion than their older peers. However, studies did not indicate that younger athletes were at more risk for prolonged recovery (>4 wk).”

In other words, the younger the athlete is at the time of the traumatic brain injury, the longer it takes to recover and the less we know about the recovery process. The Fourth International Conference on Concussion in Sport, held in Zurich in 2012, noted that “children generally take longer to recover from concussions, and assessment batteries have yet to be validated in the younger age group.” However, some tools are being evaluated at the present time, some of them for use by coaches and other non-medical personnel on the sideline during a sporting event.

The suit against the IHSA alleges that the association has failed high school athletes because it “does not mandate specific guidelines or rules on managing student-athlete concussions and head injuries” and “fails to mandate the removal of athletes who have appeared to suffer in practice (as opposed to games).”

We reported earlier this year that the state of California had recently moved to limit full-contact practices in order to reduce the chances athletes would suffer traumatic brain injury during practice.

The NFL and NCAA have both settled lawsuits over concussions, and it isn’t clear whether other state high school associations might eventually be sued as well. However, the former student’s attorney says the goal is to force a change in the way the game is played.

The IHSA responded that it goes to great lengths to protect students against head injuries. But across the country, on-field deaths have even resulted from traumatic brain injury.

“Student-athlete risk minimization, especially as it relates to concussion management in high school football, is and remains a top priority of the IHSA,” CNN quoted an IHSA assistant executive director as saying. “We believe that the IHSA, in working with national partners like the (National Federation of State High School Associations), has and will continue to be a leader in this area.”

We do know that adolescents and young adults are more susceptible to depression if they have suffered a concussion, as we reported in January. Our understanding of the connection was further bolstered by the suicide last week of Kosta Karageorge, an Ohio State football player who shot himself after complaining about concussion-related symptoms.

According to his older sister, he had sustained a concussion as recently as September and had had “at least four or five” concussions in his life.

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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