In recognition of National Brain Injury Awareness Month, throughout March the Chicago brain injury attorneys of Passen & Powell have been looking at various types of traumatic and nontraumatic brain injury, and exploring their effects, the available treatments, and how such injuries can be prevented. This week, as the month draws to a close, we pay particular attention to some of the good news that has recently emerged on brain injuries.
Today’s good news is a positive step forward in concussion safety. We are pleased to report legislative action in Springfield designed to prevent and minimize brain injuries in one of our most vulnerable populations: student athletes. We have previously written about the dangers of concussions in student athletes. Now, the Illinois legislature is taking command of this important issue.
First and foremost, there are steps which could be taken, but are not, to minimize the chance of concussion in these student athletes. As an example, the simple mandate of universal use of a double-sided mouthguard, which cost around $5 each, would greatly reduce the risk of concussion in students participating in football programs – Yet these mouthguards are almost never used.
Moreover, when coaches and other adults in charge fail to recognize and respond to brain injury, the consequences of that injury can be dramatically increased. When a student athlete suffers a concussion, the correct response is to take him out of action, immediately, until cleared to return by a medical professional. Yet, the pervasive “tough guy” culture of sports often leads coaches to send these students back into the practice or game.
This can greatly increase the damage done, both directly, through worsening the existing injury, and indirectly, by leading to a second injury. Subsequent concussions are more likely to occur when an athlete has not yet recovered from the first. They are also often far more severe, particularly when they occur before the victim has had a chance to recover from the first. Thus, sending concussed players back into action can change what could have been only a passing problem into permanent disability or death. Our experienced brain injury attorneys have long said that this unnecessary risk is simply unacceptable.
Now, the Illinois House has passed legislation commanding all school districts in our state to put rules in place designed to protect student athletes from concussions. Specifically, the bill would mandate that all schools in the state adopt the Illinois High School Association’s concussion guidelines. Although it was not included in this round of legislation, the bill’s sponsors also plan to introduce a bill expanding this requirement to park district sports.
Under the guidelines, the parents of student athletes would be forced into awareness of this important issue: they would have to sign off on the IHSA guidelines before their children could participate in school sports. Under these guidelines, referees are also given responsibility for concussion safety. Referees would be required to tell coaches when a player shows signs of a possible concussion, and to tell the players themselves that they should be evaluated by medical staff before continuing play.
The legislation, which unanimously passed the House last week, now heads for the Illinois Senate.
Our Chicago brain injury lawyers are pleased to see our state legislators taking this issue seriously. Sadly, however, there is one blemish upon this otherwise promising legislation. While in the House, a key provision was eliminated from the bill. In its earlier form, the bill would have mandated that school districts provide the funding for a doctor to examine students who showed signs of concussion. This provision was removed, however, as legislators were concerned that some schools would be unable to bear the cost of this requirement.
Still, we remain hopeful that this legislation will prove to be a useful and productive first step in protecting our state’s student athletes from needless brain injury. We applaud the Illinois House for moving forward, and encourage the Senate to move swiftly and decisively on this legislation, as well.
For a free consultation with an experienced brain injury lawyer at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.