CHICAGO - JULY 28, 2011. Governor Pat Quinn today signed comprehensive legislation that will help protect Illinois’ student-athletes from concussions and other brain injuries. The new law ensures that athletes who receive a concussion will not be allowed to return to play or practice until they are evaluated and receive written clearance from a licensed health professional. Additionally, the law ensures that student-athletes, their parents and their coaches are able to recognize the signs of a concussion.
“The desire to compete must never trump the safety of our student athletes," Governor Quinn said. “This new law will ensure that student-athletes, parents and coaches recognize the symptoms and understand the risks of concussions, so that they can prevent a more serious, lasting injury."
House Bill 200, sponsored by Illinois House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) and Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago), requires each school board in Illinois to adopt a concussion policy that complies with Illinois High School Association (IHSA) guidelines. Those guidelines prevent students who are removed from a game or practice due to a possible head injury from returning without being evaluated and cleared by a medical professional.
The new law also requires all school boards in the state to partner with the IHSA to develop clear guidelines and materials to educate coaches, student athletes and their parents about concussions. In addition, the bill encourages park districts to educate about the dangers of concussions.
“I am so thankful to the many groups, athletes and parents who came together to help this bill get to the point where it is being signed today by the Governor,” said Rep. Cross. “We are hopeful that this new law will raise awareness for our youth in Illinois when it comes to these devastating and sometimes fatal head injuries.”
“We have seen too many disturbing stories about the long-term negative impact of concussions,” said Sen. Raoul. “From junior football to youth hockey, from girls’ basketball or soccer to gymnastics, this new law will help make sure that young athletes are better protected from potentially life-altering head injuries.”
CDC research indicates that sports are the second-leading cause of brain injury in young adults 15-24, and that more than 40 percent of high school athletes returned to play before fully recovering from a concussion. Former Chicago Bears guard Kurt Becker, a member of the 1985 championship team and proponent of the legislation, testified before an Illinois House of Representatives’ committee on the effects of head injuries that can last a lifetime. Concussion, defined as a type of traumatic brain injury that interferes with normal function of the brain, creates long-term detrimental health effects that are especially harmful for teenagers.
House Bill 200 goes into effect immediately and has already begun to generate results. Chicago Public Schools has distributed concussion awareness materials to all CPS schools and begun to hold meetings with the IHSA to discuss next steps for implementation.