Play Smart. Play Hard.


Today the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) launched a national initiative for overall student-athlete safety and participation in sport. It is called Play Smart. Play Hard. 

The campaign will focus on education and equipping athletes, parents, coaches and schools on ways to better safeguard the heath and welfare of student-athletes, including minimizing the risk of head injuries.

The main function of this campaign is to have readily available information and tools for player safety; taking on the current issues/risks as well as being forward-thinking and discussing and formulating plans for other issues that are of concern in sports. At the center of Play Smart. Play Hard. are the resources including a Player Safety Toolkit which is directed at concussions at this time. When going to the Play Smart. Play Hard. page ( in the resource tab you can find all the current Illinois and IHSA concussion information as well as the National Federation of State High School Association (NFHS) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) concussion info.

Play Smart. Play Hard. may have been trumpeted by the IHSA and Illinois but there are many other state high school association supporters of this innovative approach, 27 to be exact, check the site to see if your state is part of it.

As mentioned on the blog yesterday I was part of the initial roll out attending and speaking at a press conference regarding this and the other main feature of this campaign, the Illinois Advisory Council on Player Safety. You can watch the press conference HERE.

One of the key factors that has me excited about this program is the Council and one of the key tenants of it, “open and transparent dialogue”. This will provide everyone the opportunity to see the meeting minutes of what is being discussed and then give you the chance to provide input through contacting PSPH (which you can do at Along with that, there may be a fellow on the Council that has a blog that will be willing to share with you pertinent information.

In the past 24 hours I have fielded questions and thoughts about the Council that are wide-ranging and good ideas. The most ubiquitous question was “If there is a Sports Medicine Committee already why is this being formed?” In my opinion this is an easy answer; this Council is not made up of health care professionals entirely, rather it also has input from student-athletes, a legislator, parents, a coach, an official and those that have been effected by the concerns of concussions. This Council represents a much broader cross-section and dynamic of player safety allowing feedback that has never been represented before. The Sports Medicine Advisory Committee will remain and get to focus more on the research and “nuts and bolts” while the Player Safety Council can digest that information and create a comprehensive approach to tackling those issues.

This is a concept that is not foreign on the blog, as I have mentioned many times; that those that do the research and provide guidance sometimes miss the mark on its effectiveness in the “real world”, no matter how good of intention or thought it might have. Gaining input from the “boots on the ground” that will be doing the leg work and from those most impacted – student-athletes – will create a much more holistic approach to player safety issues. It is also important to note that although the Illinois Advisory Council on Player Safety has members that are premium stakeholders they are relatively independent (I do not have any disclosures as it pertains to this council, I am not paid by the IHSA nor any entity that is being discussed on the Council, and I will let you know if there is ever a conflict). I cannot speak for the others on the Council, but I am an advocate for youth, adolescent and student-athlete safety and well-being that is my first priority when it comes to this service.

When you get the chance find Play Smart. Play Hard. and bookmark it. Provide feedback when you see fit and help us find ways for our kids to continue to play smart and play hard.


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