IHSA Launches Play Smart. Play Hard. Campaign to Enhance Student-Athlete Safety

The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) has announced the launch of the Play Smart. Play Hard. campaign focused on “furthering the IHSA’s commitment to enhancing the safety of Illinois’ student-athletes and collaborating with others who share that mission. The campaign will focus on educating and equipping athletes, parents, coaches and schools on ways to better safeguard the health and welfare of student-athletes, including minimizing the risk of head injuries.”

Marty Hickman, Executive Director of the IHSA, said: “Player safety is the IHSA’s top priority, and we are thrilled to announce the launch of the Play Smart. Play Hard. campaign. The IHSA firmly believes that high school athletics bring tremendous value to student-athletes, including lifelong lessons in hard work, perseverance and teamwork, but we also recognize there is an element of risk in athletics. Play Smart. Play Hard. represents the IHSA’s latest step in our ongoing commitment to enhancing the safety of student-athletes while they continue playing the sports we all love.”

As part of the campaign, the IHSA is implementing several new initiatives focused on “enhancing student-athlete safety that build on existing programs. These include:

“Launching the Illinois Advisory Council on Player Safety to facilitate open and transparent dialogue around head injuries and other player safety issues, review the IHSA’s current programs and offer new recommendations to ensure the IHSA remains a leader in student-athlete safety standards and protocols.”

The Council is comprised of the following individuals:

o   Tregg Duerson, former Loyola Academy and University of Notre Dame football player and son of deceased NFL veteran, Dave Duerson

o   Napoleon Harris, Illinois State Senator and former NFL linebacker

o   Tory Lindley, Associate Athletic Director and Head Athletic Trainer at Northwestern University

o   Dustin Fink, certified athletic trainer and author of The Concussion Blog

o   Sara Flanigan, co-founder and current president of the Illinois Spirit Officials Association, and a mother of two young athletes

o   Dennis Piron, Batavia High School Football and Track & Field Coach who coached son throughout his high school football career

o   Allison Hieb, junior soccer player at Normal Community West High School

o   Cole Steward, three-sport sophomore at Salem High School

“I commend the IHSA for taking such a strong step forward as part of its ongoing player safety efforts,” said Duerson, who played football in college and high school in Illinois and is the son of deceased NFL veteran Dave Duerson, who suffered from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). “Coming from a football family who knows first-hand both the risks and rewards of playing the sports we love, I’m committed to continuing to honor my father’s legacy by working with the IHSA, student-athletes, coaches, parents and schools in Illinois to better protect all of our athletes.”

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