Chicago City Council Passes Concussion Ordinance

The Chicago City Council passed a new city ordinance on January 13, 2011 addressing sports concussions. Athletes showing signs of concussion will be prohibited from returning to play and/or practice until they are cleared by a licensed health care provider. The rule applies to students at the primary, middle and secondary schools, both public and private school settings. Schools that are found to be in violation of this ordinance would lose their water/sewer exemption from the city. Currently, Chicago Public Schools require that athletes be removed from the field if they show signs of headache, dizziness or loss of memory.

Alderman Ed Burke said “The most important part of this, I believe, is public education.”  He also went on to say that parents need to know that “putting their kid back in the game as quickly as possible after a head injury is a recipe for disaster.” Burke is the Chair of the Finance Committee. Alderman Latasha Thomas said “The City of Chicago needs to take action because coaches and players, due to their competitive spirit, all too often want to play through what appears to be minor injury without it being properly evaluated. Unfortunately such a failure to respond decisively may lead to a serious outcome.” Thomas is the Chair of the Education and Child Development Committee.

The Joint Committee on Finance and Committee on Health and Child Development met the day before in a hearing to discuss the matter of sports concussions. The Brain Injury Association of Illinois provided experts during the hearing to share information. The Brain Injury Association was represented by Dr. Elizabeth Pieroth of The Midwest Center for Concussion Care and Chris Nowinski of the Sports Legacy Institute. Additional witnesses included Dr. Hunt J. Batjer of Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Dr. Daniel Derman of Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Dr. Jeffrey Mjaanes of Rush University Medical Center, and Dr. Cynthia LaBella of Children’s Memorial Hospital.

Following yesterday’s meeting, Alderman Burke shared his thoughts with BIA of Illinois Executive Director, Philicia Deckard. He discussed the impact of the legislation and how he hoped it would continue with state legislative activity in Springfield. His brother, Representative Daniel Burke, is currently sponsoring a bill addressing concussions in the Illinois state legislature.

The BIA of Illinois will be looking at the language of the new ordinance to see how it might be used in other communities around the state. Work is already underway with proposed legislation in the Illinois legislature. Injury prevention materials are available through the Brain Injury Association and on the CDC website, www.cdc.gov/concussion.

The Brain Injury Association of Illinois provides information and resources to individuals who have sustained an acquired brain injury, as well as to families, professionals and other members in the community. The BIA of Illinois also provides educational programs, injury prevention, public awareness, summer camp program, advocacy and support programs. For additional information, call (800)699-6443 or e-mail info@biail.org. Visit the