Local High Schools Give Nod to New IHSA Concussion Guidelines

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A new IHSA guideline will not allow athletes to return to play or practice until they have written clearance from a licensed health care provider.

By Erin Sauder | Email the author | May 6, 2011


Two local high schools are lauding the new guidelines for student athletes returning from concussions.

Last month, the Illinois High School AssociationBoard of Directors approved a policy that states “athletes cannot return to play or practice until they are evaluated by and receive written clearance from a licensed health care provider.”

Tim Feigh, athletic director at Hinsdale South High School, said school officials began looking into better safeguards two years ago when about eight athletes were out with concussions during the football season.

“We couldn’t figure out what was going on,” Feigh said.

An evaluation found, among other issues, the athletes’ helmets were not properly inflated to fit their heads.

“We had to change policies then to make the trainers and coaches more diligent,” Feigh said.

Last year, Hinsdale South began computerized testing to provide a baseline of an athlete’s cognitive abilities and reaction time to later be used for comparison if they experience a head injury.

“Now, when they have a concussion they have to pass this test as well as have a doctor’s note,” Feigh said. “And we don’t let them come back unless they get approval. Once they’re approved, they can come back.”

The policy comes as a result of extensive work by the IHSA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee.

“This is an important policy for the health and safety of high school student-athletes in Illinois,” said IHSA Associate Executive Director and Sports Medicine Chair Kurt Gibson. “The current concussion policy language only indicates what must be done for a student-athlete to return to a contest after being removed for a concussion or suspected concussion on the day of the contest. The new policy clarifies the action that must be taken for a student-athlete to return to play in the days, weeks or months that follow after they are diagnosed to have suffered a concussion.”

In the past, Mike Sullivan, head athletic trainer at Downers Grove South High School, said if student athletes’ concussion symptoms passed in 24 hours, they were able to clear them to play.

But, similar to Hinsdale South, students have to undergo a checklist and a series of tests which determine response, memory and reaction time before they can get back on the field.

“I’m kind of an old school athletic trainer,” Sullivan said. “I thought at first, ‘That’s kind of overkill.’ But as we’ve started testing our students, we’re now realizing there’s more going on that we were missing. It’s more than just saying, ‘OK, you don’t have a headache,’ and sending them back into play.”

Sullivan said he’s been ‘won over.’

“I realize how important it is and better for the students,” he said.