Coaches, players, and fans from around the state are gathered tonight to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of the 256 teams who have qualified for this year’s Illinois High School Association (IHSA) Football Playoffs. However, that enthusiasm is tempered by the tragic loss of life of a Bogan High School student that occurred yesterday (October 23) in Chicago. Following the Tiger’s Thursday night football contest, senior Andre Smith walked off the field and quickly lost consciousness. He passed away in the early hours of Friday morning at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn.
Andre’s death is the seventh nationally by a high school football player this year, and the first in Illinois since a Hall High School (Spring Valley) player passed away from complications related to an enlarged heart in 2012. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Smith family and the entire Bogan community tonight.
As anyone who has participated in athletics knows, there is a risk of injury any time a player steps on the field of play. Football, in particular, has been under the microscope over the last decade, and organizations at all levels of play, including high school, have been taking aggressive steps to try and reduce injury over time.
Over the past five years, the IHSA has strengthened its summer contact rules, its pre-season acclimatization period, and its in-season contact policies in response to the growing medical research in the area of injury prevention. The adoption of these best practices will be on-going in Illinois and across the country, but the efforts taken thus far - and the continued emphasis of proper technique and injury identification by high school coaches and athletic training staffs - have enabled the sport of football to be as safe for participants as it has ever been.
Andre’s tragic death has transcended Bogan High School and the city of Chicago. High school football programs all across the state are thinking of Andre and the Bengals community tonight.