IHSA reminds schools of concussion guidelines

By on November 1, 2010

BLOOMINGTON, Ill.—With the first State Series tournaments of the 2010-11 school year underway this week, the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) is reminding its member schools and officials of the new concussion guidelines set forth by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) this year.

“The new concussion guidelines drew a great deal of attention, both in Illinois and nationally, as the high school seasons began in August,” said IHSA Associate Executive Director Kurt Gibson. “We want to keep this important issue at the forefront of everyone’s mind. It is imperative that our schools, coaches and officials continue to be diligent when dealing with head injuries and continue to follow the guidelines that have been put into place by the NFHS and IHSA.”

The NFHS announced new guidelines that encompass all NFHS sports last February when announcing rule changes for the upcoming school year. The new NFHS rule puts strict constraints on players who may have suffered a concussion. The rule states that “any player who exhibits signs, symptoms or behaviors consistent with a concussion, including but not limited to loss of consciousness, headache, dizziness, confusion or balance problems, must be removed from the contest immediately and shall not return to play before being cleared by an appropriate health-care professional.” The previous NFHS concussion rule required that a player lose consciousness in order for an official to be able to remove that player from a contest.

“The new rule does not create the expectation that officials are supposed to perform a medical diagnosis on a player,” added Gibson. “It simply calls for them to be more cognizant of athletes who may be displaying signs, symptoms, or behaviors that generally accompany a concussion. We know that the intensity is ratcheted up as we get into the postseason and an individual’s desire to return to a contest may be greater. But that cannot mean that our attitude toward head injuries or the way we deal with them can be lax or different from what it is being done during the regular-season.”

As a result of the new NFHS rule, the IHSA has stressed that its member schools internally identify their “health-care professionals” who may allow an athlete to return to a contest, as a means to prevent parents or individuals in the crowd with medical experience from making a diagnosis.

In addition, the NFHS has developed a new education course on concussions. The course, entitled Concussion In Sports: What You Need To Know, is a 20-minute online educational program available free on the NFHS website, www.nfhslearn.com, to anyone who would like to view it. The IHSA offersconcussion education on its Sports Medicine Advisory Committee webpage, www.ihsa.org/initiatives/sportsMedicine/index.htm, as well as return to play guidelines for head injuries in each sports’ manual.

“I think we have been extremely proactive in terms of concussion education and readiness,” said IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman. “That is a result of diligent work by the IHSA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, which is also aided by the national insight Kurt Gibson has been able to relay as a member of the NFHS Sports Medicine Advisory Committee. The new NFHS guidelines strengthen what we were already doing. These guidelines won’t prevent concussions, but they are a significant step toward helping participants who have suffered a concussion be safe from further harm.”