A proposal to ban Illinois children younger than 12 from playing tackle to delay the effects of helmet banging head trauma does not have the votes to pass this session, the Associated Press is reporting.
Rep. Carol Sente, a Vernon Hills Democrat, said parents and taxpayers “need more time to absorb the evidence” of the link between repeated blows to the brain and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a dementia-like, degenerative disease characterized by memory loss, violent urges, depression and other cognitive troubles, in the Associated Press report.
Sente proposed The Dave Duerson Act to Prevent CTE in January, aimed at reducing long-term health risks associated with tackle football.
Duerson was a starting safety on the 1985 Chicago Bears Super Bowl championship team. Duerson took his own life at age 50 and was later found to have CTE. He played for the Bears for several years and was known for his punishing hits.
Joining Sente in support of the bill was Tregg Duerson, Dave Duerson’s son, Dr. Chris Nowinski, CEO of the Concussion Legacy Foundation, former Bears player Otis Wilson, former Bears TV broadcaster Mike Adamle and Liz Nicholson, wife of former NFL player Gerry Sullivan.
“A child’s brain goes through significant changes as they become an adolescent between the ages of 8 and 12,” Nowinski said. “We have research now to say playing football during those years increases your risk as an adult of having problems with cognition and depression, behavioral issues.”
Nowinski said a child’s head is nearly full grown at age 6, but the rest of the body still is catching up.
Geoff Meyer, president of The Chicagoland Youth Football League, said in January he does not believe eliminating tackle football would be a good thing.
“Eliminating youth football is dangerous because it will eliminate the necessary early training our players receive so they can be safer if they chose to play at the higher levels,” said Meyer.
Meyer still believes the positive aspects of youth football far outweigh the negatives. He noted that tackle football is a choice.
“The research that concludes that CTE comes from multiple hits, rather than just concussions, does not come to the conclusion that youth football should be banned,” Meyer said. “I’m not trying to downplay it at all. There’s no more important responsibility than leading our young children.”
Despite the Legislature's adjournment in May, the proposal stays alive until year's end, according to the Associated Press report. Lawmakers will gavel into session for two weeks late in the year and could consider it then, Sente said.
"This is cutting edge research that is evolving weekly," Sente said. "As the evidence reaches parents, I believe more individuals will delay when their child starts playing tackle football. If they don't have options like flag football, I believe in time parents and youth will steer away from football entirely."