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Board Approves Return-to-Play Concussion Guidelines

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The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) Board of Directors approved a recommendation at its regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, April 19, 2011, to implement a new Policy regarding return to play guidelines after a student-athlete has been diagnosed with a concussion.

The new Policy reads: “In cases when an athlete is not cleared to return to play the same day as he/she is removed from a contest following a possible head injury (i.e., concussion), the athlete shall not return to play or practice until the athlete is evaluated by and receives written clearance from a licensed health care provider to return to play.  

For the purposes of this policy, licensed health care providers consist of physicians licensed to practice medicine in all its branches in Illinois and certified athletic trainers working in conjunction with physicians licensed to practice medicine in all its branches in Illinois.”

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.”

The National Federation of the State High School Associations (NFHS), who writes the playing codes IHSA schools are governed by, implemented new concussion guidelines for all sports prior to the start of the 2010-11 school year. The new NFHS guidelines center around concussion recognition by coaches, officials and game personnel and eliminate outdated language that had previously required a student-athlete to be rendered unconscious to be removed from a contest.

“This new Policy is an important second step in what have been a pair of significant strides that the IHSA has made in concussion safety this school year,” said IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman. “The more we learn about concussions, the more we realize the long-term effects of these injuries and how important follow-up is for student-athletes. The NFHS helped bring its members to the forefront of concussion recognition and prevention earlier this year and, we believe we have now added an equally critical component to student-athlete safety following a concussion.”

ACTION ITEMS                                                                                            

1.   The Board voted not to approve Kankakee (Sr.) High School’s request for a waiver to the IHSA Travel Policy (Policy 10).

2.   The Board approved a recommendation to approve the formation of two ad-hoc committees to review the possibility of beginning a State Final competition in Marching Band and a State Final competition in Show Choir.

3.   The Board approved a recommendation to name three Athletic Directors to serve as tellers for the 2011-12 school term. Downs (Tri-Valley) Athletic Director Brian Knutson will serve as the Nominations teller, Bloomington (H.S.) Athletic Director John Szabo will serve as the Elections teller and Normal (Community West) Athletic Director Stan Lewis will serve as the Proposals teller.

4.   The Board voted to renew the contracts of eight IHSA administrators: Kurt Gibson, Scott Johnson, Susie Knoblauch, Ron McGraw, Beth Sauser, Craig Anderson, Stacey Lambert and Matt Troha. The Board also renewed the contract of Tracie Brown, the IHSA Coordinator of Special Programs.

5.   The Board approved a directive for the IHSA administrative staff to review the Association’s Multiplier Waiver Policy and to bring recommendations for modifications back to the Board within thirty days. 


1.   The Board modified the Executive Director’s ruling on a transfer student from Springfield (H.S.). The student was ruled ineligible for non-compliance with IHSA By-law 6.021. The Board ruled that the student is now eligible to participate immediately based on new information introduced at the hearing.


At each meeting of the Board of Directors, there are certain items the Board discusses, but upon which no action is taken. The following is a report of those items from the April 19, 2011, agenda:

1.   The Board heard a report from IHSA Associate Executive Director Kurt Gibson on the results from the IHSA Performance-Enhancing Drug Testing Program. The results thus far from the 2010-11 school year include 467 student-athletes tested from 56 member schools. The tests resulted in three positive tests, with one medical exemption. The two individuals who were not cleared by the Association’s Medical Review Officer are being penalized in accordance with IHSA Policy 24, which includes 365 days of ineligibility. Click here for IHSA Policy 24
IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman:
“The random school testing portion of the IHSA Performance-Enhancing Drug Testing Program that occurred during the winter of 2010-11 produced the first two punishable offenses in the history of the program. We certainly don’t celebrate these findings, but it does bring validity to the fact that our member school coaches and administrators believe that these abuses are occurring. We are confident that the possibility of being tested year-round will continue to be a significant deterrent for student-athletes who are considering using illegal substances. Due to confidentially laws, the IHSA is unable to comment further on the positive tests, including the schools or individuals involved.”

2.   The Board discussed a policy change to the IHSA Classification Policy as submitted by Casey-Westfield Principal Clyde Frankie that would use the current school year enrollments in determining classifications.

3.   The Board heard an update on the 2011 NFHS Summer Meeting, scheduled from June 28 through July 2 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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