Group will continue advocacy on behalf of high school athletes who suffer disabling injuries

2013-08-01T13:29:00Z 2013-08-01T21:33:47Z Group will continue advocacy on behalf of high school athletes who suffer disabling injuriesGregory Tejeda Times Correspondent
August 01, 2013 1:29 pm  • 

BLUE ISLAND | Gov. Pat Quinn is expected this weekend to sign a new law that will require high school athletes be covered by a catastrophic health insurance policy in the event they suffer a disabling injury while competing.

Yet the head of a Chicago-based group that advocates for this cause says they view the bill-signing ceremony tentatively scheduled for Sunday afternoon as merely a first step. 

“Don’t get me wrong, we’re extremely happy with what the governor is going to do,” said Kenneth Jennings, chairman of the Gridiron Alliance. “But there is more that needs to be done, and we’re going to continue to work to do it.”

Under the bill sponsored by state Rep. Will Davis, D-Homewood, and state Sen. Napoleon Harris, D-Flossmoor, all student-athletes in Illinois will have to be covered by a $3 million policy in catastrophic health insurance by the school district. The bill does not specify a funding source.

Under such a policy, the payoff would kick in when a student’s medical expenses exceed $50,000.

Jennings said every year about 100 high school athletes in all sports across the United States suffer a disabling injury while playing.

Yet, he said, the group believes the $3 million policy is insufficient to truly cover the expenses that can be incurred by someone suffering a disabling injury.

“We want them to increase the policy,” said Jennings, who hopes the Illinois General Assembly in future years boosts the figure to somewhere around $7.5 million.

The group’s efforts were inspired by the case of Rasul “Rocky” Clark, who suffered an injury at age 16 and became quadriplegic in September 2000 while playing football for Eisenhower High School.

Community High School District 218 actually had an insurance policy providing catastrophic health coverage for its athletes at the time. But Clark, who died last year at age 27, had his medical benefits exhausted after 10 years of medical treatments.

As a result, the Gridiron Alliance worked with Davis and Harris to craft the bill the General Assembly approved this spring. Harris played high school football and basketball at Thornton High School in Harvey before going on to play football professionally,

Although Quinn aides have not yet made the governor’s schedule for the weekend available, Jennings said the governor will be at Eisenhower High School, 12700 Sacramento Ave., in Blue Island, at 1 p.m. Sunday for the bill-signing ceremony.

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