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Safety Remains the Priority Entering the 2018 IHSA Football Season

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Today marks the start of the 2018 football season.

As the new school year begins, the IHSA hopes everyone involved in high school sports takes the necessary precautions to ensure the safest playing environment for all participants. Participating in high school athletics offers many tremendous benefits to student-athletes, but there is an inherent risk for injury through that participation.

Over the past few years, the IHSA has worked with its membership and other constituents to establish policies and guidelines aimed at player safety.

These policies and guidelines include:
  • Creating a weekly player limitation in football, starting in the 2019-20 school year.
  • Requiring contest officials to file a Special Report to member schools since 2010-11, anytime a student-athlete is removed from a contest with a possible head injury.
  • Updating its Pre-Season Acclimatization Policy in football in 2013 to specify the number and length of practices during the first 14 calendar days of the football season.
  • Instituting new summer contact rules in football in 2014 to require a build up to the maximum amount of equipment allowed to be worn and to develop limits on practice time in the summer.
  • Instituting in-season contact protocols for football in 2015 to place limits on the type and amount of full contact that can occur during the season.
  • Developing a formal Heat Management Policy in 2016 that monitors all IHSA post-season events.
  • Creating concussion education for coaches and licensed officials as a part of the Youth Sports Concussion Safety Act. To date, over 30,000 individuals have completed training.
  • Developing a mechanism in the IHSA Schools Center to allow certified athletic trainers to report concussion data to the IHSA.
  • Providing member schools with information on best practices regarding Return to Play, Return to Learn, and Emergency Action Planning that enable member schools to comply with the Youth Sports Concussion Safety Act.

“Like so many others, high school football is an important part of my life,” said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson. “I have played the game, coached the game and worked as an administrator overseeing programs at the high school level throughout my career in education. Seeing the sport continue to flourish is not only important to me, it is personal, because of the impact high school football had on my life and the lives it lets me impact in turn. That is why the IHSA and our partners have and will continue to do everything we can to make the game as safe as possible for its participants. That starts with education and awareness, and in that vein, the game has never been better from a coaching perspective. St. Charles North High School coach Rob Pomazak said it best in the Chicago Tribune earlier this week when he said “I have to take care of these kids.” Thank you to Rob and all the other IHSA coaches who are doing their part. Here at the IHSA, we will continue to do ours as well.”

Additionally, the IHSA’s Sports Medicine Advisory Committee has discussed and will continue to discuss other sports medicine-related topics of interest to the membership over the coming year. The IHSA’s Board of Directors approved the formation of a Sports Medicine Advisory Committee in October of 1988, making this one of the first of its kind for a state high school association in the country. Since that time, the committee has worked on many important initiatives with the membership.
Some topics of interest the committee will discuss in 2018-19 include:
  • Acclimatization Policies for sports besides football
  • Wrestling skin conditions and injury time for head injuries

While there are inherent risks when students choose to participate, the IHSA has been and will continue to be leaders in minimizing those risks. The IHSA also believes that participation in interscholastic sport continues to enhance the education and development of young people in Illinois. We look forward to a great 2018-19 school year of safe and competitive sport and activity participation.