The first shot in the growing war over school sports concussions has been fired, and it appears to have backfired.
On Wednesday, a Chicago judge rejected a case filed against the Illinois High School Association in an attempt to force the IHSA to pay for medical testing of select former athletes retro-dated to the 2002 season. The lawsuit also called for increased safety measures to be implemented at all Illinois schools, calling for increased testing and diagnosis tools.
Those changes would be costly, a factor that Cook County judge Leroy Martin Jr. appeared to take into consideration.
“Imposing broader liability on this defendant would certainly change the sport of football and potentially harm it or cause it to be abandoned,” Martin wrote in his decision.
There’s no denying that the IHSA would struggle to bear the brunt of the expenses required to get all schools up to an upgraded code. However, the state governing body insisted that it’s primary opposition to the suit was because it has not taken the IHSA’s own efforts to improve head safety into account.
“We maintain that the way to make high school football in Illinois safer is not through divisive lawsuits, but rather through collaborative efforts,” IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman said. “We have followed this practice for years, and it’s obvious the Court agrees with our approach.”
More important than the impact on Illinois is the impact that the decision may have on high school athletics as a whole. With the rejection of the case now a plausible precedent for other such legal affairs, there’s now a barrier or at least reason for hesitance for other states and groups to come forward with suits. Whether that does delay or stop such cases from coming forward remains to be seen, but it has certainly struck an early blow for the state associations and their continued unfettered oversight of high school sports.