IHSA releases new safety stickers


The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) announced that all high school football players will be asked to wear stickers for player safety for the upcoming 2015 season. Three months before this act was passed, on May 12th, the IHSA created a program named Play Smart, Play Hard (PSPH). PSPH is a program that reaches out to high school football teams within Illinois to suggest ways about improving player safety.

“This program is meant to transcend football for safety and protection of the players within the sport,” Matt Troha, IHSA Assistant Executive Director, said. “It will empower coaches, players, parents and fans to educate themselves on these issues.”

Stevenson is one of many schools within the state of Illinois that has not yet put the stickers on the back of its helmets. However, the coaching staff has been following mandatory PSPH requirements that were put into place in June of this year, teaching new techniques to try and eliminate head injuries.

“[The coaches] have really taken it to heart.” Wide Receiver Mike Marchese ’17 said. “Earlier in the summer, we had to watch a 40 minute video and even though it was boring, it shows they really care about us and our safety.”

According to a study on head trauma of high school sports by the Institute of Medicine, it is predicted that high school football players suffer about 11 concussions for every 10,000 games and practices. With over 1.1 million high school football players, PSPH has done all in their power to embed within the heads of high school student athletes the need for safer football.

“Most recently, we continued our education program,” Troha said. “The head coaches are required to have to watch a video to educate themselves on the symptoms of concussions and if a player does happen to show these symptoms, make sure they are removed from the game and evaluated by medical personnel.”

However, this program is not just to help minimize the risk of head injuries, but also to prevent all injuries in general. One of the new rules put into place was abolishing helmet to helmet contact of any kind. Troha, as well, said that the IHSA made a rule this year to restrict all contact above the shoulders.

Within the last decade, football has changed its rules to better protect the players from dangerous injuries. The equipment used during practices and game play have been upgraded substantially to better protect the athletes.

“The helmets are very important.” said Wide Receiver Henry Marchese ‘17. “They’ve really got the new technology to keep our heads safe and everything safe with the new pads.”

PSPH has a part-time partnership with Practice Like Pros, an organization that emphasizes the practice of safe play. Mike Ditka, the former middle linebacker as well as former head coach of the Chicago Bears, came to speak at a presentation at the McDonald’s headquarters in Oak Brook on August 5th.

PSPH is looking at the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) as a partner and is trying to use some of their resources to spread awareness across the nation. Troha loves the idea of a newer, safer football.

“We want to unite people to say, hey, look the game is safer than it ever has been before and it’s a great game.”