As football season gets underway, high school sports coaches in Illinois soon will have to take classes on how to best reduce concussions among young athletes under a new law signed by Gov. Pat Quinn today.
The effort comes from state Rep. Carol Sente, a Vernon Hills Democrat, who first proposed last year limiting tackling in youth and high school football practices, but that idea stalled.
This compromise requires the Illinois High School Association to create an online class that coaches of every sport will have to take and renew every two years. Sente said it should be ready this football season.
"Before the first game starts, our athletes will be more aware and better protected," she said.
Fears about the long-term affect of concussions on football players in particular have dogged the National Football League and trickled down to youth levels.
Former Chicago Bear Dave Duerson's concussion-related disability and 2011 suicide brought more local attention to the issue. But suburban youth football coaches told the Daily Herald this month head-injury fears aren't slowing local enrollment.
The coaches attribute any small drops in tackle participation to the specialization of young athletes whose year-around practices preclude multiple sports. "There are so many different options for the kids now," said Dominick Parisi, president of the Mount Prospect Football league. "If kids start playing two to three sports, it's expensive, so they choose one."
The IHSA has clashed with lawmakers this year for other reasons, but Sente praised the group for working through the summer to get the concussions program ready to go.
"They've been great about it," she said.