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Lawsuit Filed by Former HS Football Player in Illinois Over Concussions Could Have Chilling Effect on HS Football

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A class action lawsuit filed in Illinois over the issue of concussions could potentially threaten the very existence of high school football.

The attorney who brought the suit, Joseph Siprut, told CNN it is the first class action suit ever filed against a state high school sports association.

The suit was brought on behalf of Daniel Bukal, 29, who played high school football at Notre Dame College Prep in Illinois. After suffering numerous concussions, Bukal says a decade later he still has migraines and struggles with memory loss. He claims he was never educated about the effects or risks of concussions while in high school.

His suit names the Illinois High School Association as the defendant.

Considering how many African-American males find their way to college on football scholarships, the chilling effect of such a suit could have a devastating impact on the African-American community. In 2012, Black players accounted for 51.6 percent of Division I football student athletes at the FBS level and 43.2 percent of all Division I football student athletes, according to the 2012 Racial and Gender Report Card: College Sport published by the University of Central Florida.

Siprut is the same attorney who filed the suit against the NCAA over concussions.

“Our goal is to bring the fight to the high school level,” Spirut said.

Siprut told CNN that his goal is to sue every state high school athletic association so that rules will be changed to make the game safer.

The Sports Concussion Institute reports that football is the most common sport with concussion risk for males (75 percent). According to their numbers, an estimated 47 percent of athletes do not report feeling any symptoms after a concussive blow.

The rate of concussions in U.S. high school athletes more than doubled from 2005 to 2012, according to HealthDay News. In a study published in The American Journal of Sports Medicine, high school football had the highest rates of concussions.

In a statement e-mailed to The Chicago Tribune on Wednesday, the IHSA responded to the suit by saying, “While the lawsuit alleges that it exists to help aid in that matter, simply put, high school football should not be subject to being dismantled or reassembled.”

“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 statement read.

Some of the changes sought by the lawsuit are a requirement that medical personnel be on call during football practices and that there be “medical monitoring” for all who played high school football since 2002. It also seeks free testing to determine if a persons’s physical or psychological problems were caused by a concussion from football, according to The Tribune.

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