A year ago, State Rep. Carol Sente felt as if she was sitting on the opposite side of the table from the Illinois High School Association in how it handled head injuries among high school athletes.
Now, while the IHSA waits to learn whether schools will approve eliminating full-padded summer football workouts, the Lincolnshire Democrat will turn her attention to educating coaches and athletic directors.
Sente will introduce House Bill 5431 to the state education committee this morning. The bill would require all athletic directors, high school coaches and assistant coaches – regardless of sport – to complete an online concussion certification program.
The program would be free. Sente, who tried unsuccessfully last year to limit tackling in practice to twice a week, views her new bill as a compromise and a “reasonable alternative.”
“I still want to move forward and feel like each year, we’re protecting our kids from this risk,” Sente said Wednesday. “I talk to people all the time and they are not aware of the risks.”
IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman is expected to testify during today’s committee meeting. Since Sente began holding town hall meetings on concussion-related topics last year, the IHSA has worked to investigate new ways to improve player safety.
Football has remained at the center of the head injury debate. But other high school sports – including volleyball, soccer and cheerleading – have produced a large number of concussions.
Sente said more people need to become involved in the discussion. She said the certification and training will not only deal with concussions, but also with the dangers of sub-concussive hits.
Sente believes HB 5431 represents a logical next step in her goal to make high school sports safer. The results of the voting on eliminating full-padded workouts and full-contact drills during summer camps will be announced April 21.
Positive change, Sente said, can come out of the two efforts.
“I still want to see some changes with how practice happens and [the IHSA] knows that,” Sente said. “[Change] has come a little slower than I wanted, but I’m watching. They know that if their group doesn’t do it quick enough via the by-laws, that I’m back there watching them and needling them.
“I think we’ll get there, but this is an evolution, and I think you’re going to see more of it. It’s not over.”