By Ken Reed
In what could be the first of many, a class-action concussion lawsuit has been filed against the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) by Chicago attorney Joseph Siprut on behalf of former Illinois high school football player Daniel Bukal. Bukal suffered multiple concussions playing for Notre Dame College Prep in Illinois from 1999-2003. Bukal continues to suffer from migraines and memory loss. The suit focuses on the lack of consistent concussion protocols and management.
Siprut is the attorney that filed the landmark concussion lawsuit against the NCAA. That lawsuit resulted in a preliminary settlement with the NCAA that’s now waiting final approval from a judge.
“Our goal is to bring the fight to the high school level,” according to Siprut, who also said the goal is to sue every state high school athletic association in the country.
As high school concussion lawsuits grow in number, high school-sponsored football could be at risk due to the rising cost of insurance premiums.
According to IHSA executive director Marty Hickman, as more plaintiffs file lawsuits the cost of insurance could become prohibitively expensive. Some insurance companies are already requiring schools or school districts to buy separate concussion policies.
“Insurance companies don’t mind taking a risk as long as they can quantify what the risk is,” said Donald Davis, an insurance expert at the University of Illinois. “This is a new exposure that has just popped up.”
The pressure on football in general, and high school football in particular, is growing. Besides the insurance risks, parents are becoming more and more concerned about the safety of football. According to a new Bloomberg Politics poll, 50 percent of Americans say they don’t want their son to play the sport. Moreover, Sixty-two percent of college-educated respondents said they don’t want their children playing football, as did 62 percent of those making $100,000 or more a year.
“A spate of football related high school deaths made headlines over the past few weeks including young players dying after game day injuries in New York and Alabama,” wrote Annie Linskey in a piece about the Bloomberg Poll. “Across the country games have been canceled and seasons curtailed due to a surfeit of injuries and a declining number of young players.”
Another factor impacting high school football is increasingly tight school budgets. Schools are facing unprecedented budget pressures across the country. The result is school and community leaders, along with parents, are going to increasingly be forced to prioritize the school activities that they currently fund.
“Should our educational institutions be sponsoring activities that deaden and destroy brain cells and impair brain function?” writes Dr. John Gerdy in his new book, Ball or Bands. Should we continue to invest significant resources in football rather than, for example, music, which strengthens and develops neural connections and enhances brain function?”
Those are two challenging questions we face as parents and citizens today.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #30 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The State of College Athletics with Dr. David Ridpath: Problems and Potential Solutions – Ridpath is a sports administration professor at Ohio University and a long-time member of The Drake Group, a college sports reform think tank.
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Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman. We discuss the state of college athletics today.
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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Ken Reed’s Author Page on Amazon