This was probably bound to happen. Concussion lawsuits are headed to a high school near you.

The jury is still out on what this might mean for high school football. But here’s the back story: On the heels of concussion lawsuits filed against the NFL and NCAA, this month, the same attorney who filed the NCAA class-action law suit has filed a class action suit against the Illinois High School Association (IHSA). And according to a CNN report, the attorney isn’t stopping with one state. He plans to sue every state high school athletic association in the country.

At the center of the law suit is a 29 year old former student athlete at Notre Dame College Prep who played football for the school from 1999 to 2003. As the suit points out, he suffered multiple concussions during those years, and now suffers memory loss, light headedness and migraines.

The suit alleges that the player was never informed of the risks associated with concussions. It goes on to state that the IHSA has no guidelines for managing athletes who suffer head injuries, no rules for removing a player from practice following a head injury, no medical staff during practices and no baseline testing.

So what will this mean if the law suit is successful and find its way to all high school associations? The debate is already underway. On the one hand, it would force schools to begin concussion education, protocol and management, making sports safer for young athletes. But the IHSA’s reaction may be a common one. The association has stated that some of Illinois’ high schools won’t be able to afford on-call doctors for practices or baseline testing for players. In fact, the association says that if the lawsuit is successful, it would adversely affect high school sports in general.

As a physician certified in concussion management, I have to point out that not instituting changes will adversely affect players. In fact, it is critical that changes be made whether lawsuits win or lose. And those changes can be affordable. For example, there should definitely be rules for removing players from play or practice following a head injury. Athletic trainers, coaches and school nurses can and should receive concussion training. And as for baseline testing, it is affordable. In fact, any young athlete in Bexar County can come in to any of Impact Urgent Care’s locations and receive FREE baseline testing.

High school sports do not have to disappear as a result of concussion awareness. High schools are in the business of education. All they need to do is the same thing they demand of students – learn and apply that learning in real life situations. It’s a no-brainer.

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