Welcome to the Play Smart. Play Hard.
website – your resource for information on enhancing the safety of our student-athletes in Illinois high schools and across the entire United States.
At the Illinois High School Association (IHSA), player safety is our top priority. Play Smart. Play Hard.
builds on IHSA’s existing commitment to safeguard the health and welfare of student-athletes by focusing on educating and equipping student-athletes, parents, coaches and schools on how we can all work together to better protect our athletes while they enjoy playing the sports we all love.
Click on the various tabs to learn more about the IHSA’s player safety programs; the Illinois Advisory Council on Player Safety; various player safety resources for student-athletes, parents, coaches and our partners; and how you can support and get involved in Play Smart. Play Hard.
If you have questions or comments about Play Smart. Play Hard.
, please contact PSPH@ihsa.org
Q: What is “Play Smart. Play Hard.” all about?
The IHSA was founded upon the belief that high school athletics bring tremendous value to student-athletes, including lifelong lessons in hard work, perseverance and teamwork. At the same time, we recognize there is an element of risk in athletics. We take player safety seriously and are committed to ensuring that all those involved in high school athletics – students, parents, coaches, schools – are educated on and equipped to address player safety concerns. Our goal is to ensure current and future high school athletes have opportunities to both Play Smart and Play Hard.
Q: What is the IHSA doing to address concussion/player safety issues?
We recognize there continues to be a lot of attention around head injuries. Enhancing player safety is the top priority at the IHSA, and we continue to take steps to safeguard the health and welfare of student-athletes. These include:
• Actively supporting legislation, including U.S. Senator Dick Durbin’s Protecting Student Athletes from Concussions Act, to strengthen procedures for preventing, detecting and treating student-athletes who suffer concussions.
• Strengthening its Return To Play policy, which now requires players exhibiting any signs or symptoms of a concussion to be removed from play and prevented from returning until cleared by a certified athletic trainer or licensed physician.
• Implementing current rules and proposing additional measures aimed at limiting the amount of full-contact practice for high school football teams.
• Requiring all IHSA athletic directors, coaches and volunteers to pass a concussion awareness and certification test every two years.
• Requiring all Illinois student-athletes and their parents read and sign a Concussion Information Sheet, which outlines symptoms of concussions, the dangers of playing after suffering concussions and guidance for how to handle potential concussions.
• Developing a player safety toolkit to provide information and resources to our key stakeholders – student-athletes, parents, coaches, schools, etc. – about how they can play an active role in keeping student-athletes safe.
• Creating the Illinois Advisory Council on Player Safety, to serve as an independent advisory council facilitating open and transparent dialogue around head injuries and other player safety issues, reviewing IHSA’s current programs and offering new recommendations to ensure the IHSA remains a leader in student-athlete safety standards and protocols.
• Maintaining relationships with other state associations, the NFHS and the medical community to stay abreast of new research, injury prevention developments and best practices related to all player safety issues.
Q: Why should parents trust that the IHSA has the right protocols and programs in place to protect their children?
As it has been since IHSA’s founding 115 years ago, player safety is our top priority, and we continue to take steps to safeguard the health and welfare of student-athletes. The IHSA has maintained partnerships with other state associations and the medical community, including leading doctors from Children’s Memorial Hospital and Seton Medical Center to stay abreast of new research, injury prevention developments and best practices related to all player safety issues.
Q: What is the purpose of the advisory council? How did you choose the members?
The Illinois Advisory Council on Player Safety serves as an independent advisory council facilitating open and transparent dialogue around head injury and other player safety issues, reviewing IHSA’s current programs and offering new recommendations to ensure the IHSA remains a leader in student-athlete safety standards and protocols. This council builds on the efforts of the IHSA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee with a keen focus on head injuries, given the specific attention around the issue. We wanted the Council to be reflective of the range of stakeholders who are both passionate about and have expertise in enhancing student-athlete safety, including IHSA alumni Tregg Duerson, Illinois State Senator & NFL veteran Napoleon Harris, Northwestern University Athletic ATC Tory Lindley, ATC & Concussion Blog
founder Dustin Fink, IHSA official Sara Flanigan, Batavia High School head football and track & field coach Dennis Piron and current high school student-athletes Ally Hieb and Cole Steward.
Q: How are you working with other state high school association on this issue?
We recognize student-athlete safety is a nationwide priority, and are working with other state high school associations to advance our mission to safeguard the health and welfare of their student-athletes. This includes providing the player safety toolkit as a resource to share with stakeholders in their respective states as well as continuing to engage in a national dialogue with both the NFHS and other state high school associations to stay abreast of new research, injury prevention developments and best practices related to all player safety issues.
Q: Where can I find out more information?
We’ve created www.playsmartplayhard.org
to serve as a dedicated resource for information on the campaign.