IL High School Assn. Concussion Class-action Lawsuit Dismissed

Judge uses head in rendering decision

An Illinois concussion class-action lawsuit, which is the first concussion class action against a state high school association, has been dismissed. The suit was filed by players against the Illinois High School Association. The judge ruled that IHSA has put policies in place to improve the safety of the game and minimize brain injury risks. Judge Leroy Martin, Jr. also stated that mandating costly requirements would only cause football to be unaffordable for many schools.

The judge recognized IHSA’s efforts to protect student athletes, and that it has no direct relationship to football or the plaintiffs. In addition, his written decision read in part, “Imposing broader liability on this defendant would certainly change the sport of football and potentially harm it or cause it to be abandoned.”

The suit against the IHSA is the first of its kind against an organization overseeing high school football. The plaintiffs were asking the court to supervise high school management of football head injuries and seeking payment for medical testing of former students who played from as far back as 2002. The suit’s lead plaintiff played from 2010 to 2014 and states he continues to suffer memory loss from injuries suffered during that time.

The arguments

IHSA argued that it’s not an NFL-like cash cow and has an annual revenue of only $10 million to cover over 40 sports and other activities among the state’s high schools. There would be no room in the budget to comply with any requirements imposed by the court, according Thomas Heiden, the attorney representing IHSA.  He also argued that covering the payment the plaintiffs requested would lead to poorer schools shutting down their football programs and leaving only the students in wealthy schools eligible to participate.

According to plaintiffs’ attorney Joe Siprut, IHSA was giving the false notion that high school football is being threatened, and that improved safety would lead to its survival. He argued that the sport is already in danger since many fearful parents are not allowing their students to play.

In my opinion

This is a common sense ruling that may help to restore some balance against the media and research group-induced paranoia that evidently needs youth and high school football to be very dangerous to serve their interests. But, of course, this is just a trial court ruling and we probably have not seen the last of these. The good news is that the educational outreach programs and new risk management protocols seem to be having a positive impact.

Source: Michael Tarm and Sara Burnett, “Judge Tosses Concussions Lawsuit,” 20 Oct., 2015.