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Illinois High School Association Asks Judge to Dismiss Concussion Lawsuit

In a motion filed Friday, the Illinois High School Association asked a judge to dismiss a class-action lawsuit filed against it late last year over its handling of youth-football concussions, according to Michael Tarm of The Associated Press.

The lawsuit, referred to as a first-of-its-kind, football-specific class-action lawsuit against a state high school athletic association, accused the IHSA of a "systemic failure to properly manage concussions." While the suit does not seek financial damages, it does aim to have the association pay for medical testing of all former high school football players from 2002 onwards.

At the time, Joseph Siprut, the plaintiffs' lead attorney, told Tarm that the suit was "not a threat or attack on football. Football is in danger in Illinois and other states—especially at the high school level—because of how dangerous it is. If football does not change internally, it will die. The talent well will dry up as parents keep kids out of the sport—and that's how a sport dies."

According to Tarm's latest report, however, the IHSA instead has turned the tables on the lawsuit, suggesting it could cripple high school football across the state. In its 16-page motion, the association called the suit "a misguided effort that threatens high school football," building upon informal comments the association has made previously.

Just days after the lawsuit was filed, the association posted a response on its website, which read in part:

At its core, high school football is not college football, nor is it the NFL, and for the vast majority of these young players this is the highest level at which they will compete. The IHSA bears that in mind as it continues to bring safer standards of play to practice, games and off-season workouts.

A lawsuit's attempt to lump all levels of football together has far-reaching implications, potential repercussions that threaten the future of all high school sports for the millions of students around the country who annually benefit from their participation experiences.

In particular, the association was perturbed by the lawsuit's attempt to require medical personnel with "specific expertise in managing, identifying, and treating concussions" at all high school football games and practices. "Those who oversee safety measures on a day-to-day basis are the people best equipped to address these improvements, not those operating within the courts," the association said in December.

At a Dec. 5 news conference, IHSA executive director Marty Hickman cautioned that a judgment in favor of the plaintiffs would "present challenges to high school football programs that are... so far-reaching for many schools, they will undoubtedly adversely affect high school programs, and could eliminate some programs in Illinois," according to John Keilman of the Chicago Tribune. He specifically cautioned that requiring medical personnel to be present at all high school football games and practices would lead to "some very poor, depressed areas that are going to eliminate football," Tarm reported. "The haves are going to continue to have it and the have-nots are not going to have it."

According to Tarm, a status hearing in the case will take place later this month.

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