IHSA Board Approves Return To Play Concussion Guidelines

Cathy Decker

The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) Board of Directors approved a recommendation at its regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, April 19, 2011, to implement a new Policy regarding return to play guidelines after a student-athlete has been diagnosed with a concussion.

The new Policy reads: “In cases when an athlete is not cleared to return to play the same day as he/she is removed from a contest following a possible head injury (i.e., concussion), the athlete shall not return to play or practice until the athlete is evaluated by and receives written clearance from a licensed health care provider to return to play.

For the purposes of this policy, licensed health care providers consist of physicians licensed to practice medicine in all its branches in Illinois and certified athletic trainers working in conjunction with physicians licensed to practice medicine in all its branches in Illinois.”

The Policy comes as a result of extensive work by the IHSA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee.

“This is an important Policy for the health and safety of high school student-athletes in Illinois,” said IHSA Associate Executive Director and Sports Medicine Chair Kurt Gibson. “The current concussion policy language only indicates what must be done for a student-athlete to return to a contest after being removed for a concussion or suspected concussion on the day of the contest. The new Policy clarifies the action that must be taken for a student-athlete to return to play in the days, weeks or months that follow after they are diagnosed to have suffered a concussion.”

The National Federation of the State High School Associations (NFHS), who writes the playing codes IHSA schools are governed by, implemented new concussion guidelines for all sports prior to the start of the 2010-11 school year. The new NFHS guidelines center around concussion recognition by coaches, officials and game personnel and eliminate outdated language that had previously required a student-athlete to be rendered unconscious to be removed from a contest.

“This new Policy is an important second step in what have been a pair of significant strides that the IHSA has made in concussion safety this school year,” said IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman. “The more we learn about concussions, the more we realize the long-term effects of these injuries and how important follow-up is for student-athletes. The NFHS helped bring its members to the forefront of concussion recognition and prevention earlier this year and, we believe we have now added an equally critical component to student-athlete safety following a concussion.”