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Fight brews over children playing tackle football

Friday, Jan 26, 2018

* Synopsis of Rep. Carol Sente’s HB4341

Creates the CTE Prevention Act. Defines terms. Provides that a child under the age of 12 may not participate in tackle football offered by an organized youth sports program. Provides that a child under the age of 12 may participate in all other athletic activities offered by an organized youth sports program.

Keep in mind that Sente is retiring and she has no co-sponsors. But her bill did strike a nerve.

* From a press release

The best evidence shows CTE risk correlates to the number of years playing football, much as lung cancer risk correlates to number of years smoking. Athletes who begin football before 12 have a greater risk of cognitive impairment, mood and behavior disturbances as adults than players who began after 12.

The coalition also pointed to overwhelming public support from former and current football players and coaches and the general public to end tackle football for pre-teens, and to encourage them instead to play flag and other non-contact versions of football.

* John Madden

“They don’t need a helmet. They can play flag football. And with flag football you can get all the techniques. Why do we have to start with a 6-year-old who was just potty trained a year ago and put a helmet on him and tackle? … We’ll eventually get to tackling.”

* Jim Harbaugh

“I always encourage youngsters in America to play soccer till the eighth grade, then they should play football.”

* AP

The Illinois bill is similar to a proposal in New York, and Nowinski said lawmakers in at least one other state are working to raise the age at which children begin playing tackle football. He said studies have shown that starting tackle football before the age of 12 can lead to great neurological impairment later in life.

“This isn’t about an act to ban tackle football,” Nowinski said. “This is about an act to prevent children from being hit in the head hundreds of times through sports each season.“

* Public Radio

State Representative Carol Sente, a Democrat from Vernon Hills is sponsoring the bill. Sente says research and data prove the risks of playing tackle football “aren’t worth it.”

“I’m not trying to ban football. You can balance protecting football with protecting our kids,” says Sente. “Illinois has been a leader in concussion legislation and I’m proud of that. We want to be the leader in the CTE issue.”

* Sun-Times

Chris Nowinski, CEO of the Concussion Legacy Foundation, said because there is no national organization that oversees youth football, a state law would be the best bet for establishing guidelines.

“This isn’t about an act to ban tackle football, it’s an act to prevent children from being hit in the head hundreds of times through sports each season,” Nowinski said. “CTE is not something you get from bumping your head every once and a while. This has to come from the government if it’s going to happen at all.”

* Daily Herald

Boston University last year reported an association between participation in youth tackle football before age 12 and impaired mood and behavior later in life.

* CBS 2

More recently, a Boston University publication linked CTE to repetitive hits to the head, even if they don’t produce symptoms of a concussion. According to the report, the risk is higher for athletes who played tackle football as children, which is why Sente’s proposal would target pre-teens.

* Washington Post

At the Aspen Institute discussion, Robert Cantu, a leading concussion and brain trauma researcher at Boston University, said he believes children younger than 12 should not play tackle football.

Cantu said research shows brains reach their maximal developmental state between ages 10 and 12. If kids experience brain injuries at that point, he said, it can have stark effects later in life. He also said playing contact sports at a young age increases the number of subconcussive blows, which research has shown can lead to chronic traumatic encephalopathy even without a concussion.

“If you injure a brain at that early age, you have later life potential consequences,” Cantu sad. “I want very much for football to be played in a safer form. I think that safer form is flag.”

* Not everyone is convinced

Some experts, though, took issue with Sente’s bill, saying no evidence demonstrates that younger football players are at greater risk for the disease.

“There’s no scientific consensus that 12 or 11 is a threshold age below which (tackle football) becomes more dangerous,” said Dr. Julian Bailes of the NorthShore University HealthSystem Neurological Institute, a CTE researcher who advises the Pop Warner youth football organization.

Jerry Miller of Bill George Youth Football, a suburban league of 3,500 players, about 1,000 of whom are under 12, said the game already has undergone numerous changes that have made it safer.

“The problem is that when all this happened, football was played as a gladiator sport,” he said. “Football has toned down so much. Our league hardly hits.”

* And

In a statement, Brian Heffron, a spokesperson for Pop Warner, said that while the youth football organization encourages player safety, they “don’t agree banning football for young people is the answer.”

“We can’t imagine elected officials mandating to parents which sports their children can play,” Heffron said. “Literally millions of young people have played Pop Warner football for nearly 90 years and have grown up to be healthy, successful adults contributing to society in so many ways. We think the life lessons, experiences and memories from playing this great team sport far outweigh the risks.”

* And

Not everyone agrees with the new proposed legislation. John Calabria, head of the Schaumburg Athletic Association’s football program, says the legislation is over-reaching.

“You’re not getting that growth, that ability to be a teammate,” he said. “Hard work, ethics, all that is taken away. Yes, you get some of that with flag football, but not to the fullest effect as with tackle (football).”

* And

If a bill proposed Thursday ends up getting passed, youth football organizations like Sycamore Youth Football League won’t be able to offer tackle football to children younger than 12.

SYFL President Brian Klaassens said he feels football is being unfairly targeted.

“I’m not very surprised that’s what they are trying to do,” said Klaassens, who is in his first year as president but has had two children play football in the league. “At what point do we try to stop and limit any kind of sports to our kids?”

Just sayin, but a lot of those adults would be out of jobs if this bill passed.

* Sun-Times editorial

Children under the age of 12 should not play tackle football. It is too dangerous.

We say that as an editorial board, and also as parents. We don’t say it as a matter of potential law. We believe this is a decision best left to parents, not dictated by the Illinois Legislature.

If ever there was a problem that seems to be taking care of itself, this is it. Participation in youth tackle football is plummeting, even without legal bans, as the risks become more widely understood. Since 2009, participation among boys ages 6 to 12 has fallen nearly 20 percent, according to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association, and you can bet participation will fall further as more parents wise up.

* Back to the sponsor

“Public safety issues that have severe health implications, I think, the government does play a role, whether that’s car seats or seat belts or smoking I think that the data at this point, for me, while it’s not 100 percent, it’s convincing,” said State Rep. Carol Sente, D-Vernon Hills.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - John Rawlssss - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 12:40 pm:

    The government should not play a role in this. The government is wrong to legislate morality, and it is wrong to ban things in the name of “public health.” It’s wrong that the government has sin taxes on alcohol and tobacco. It’s wrong that the government mandates seatbelts. Personal responsibility saves lives. Natural selection takes care of the rest.

  2. - I'm old, okay? - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 12:41 pm:

    When I was growing up, there was no tackle football in the Springfield area until you were 12. It’s a sensible line to draw.

  3. - 47th Ward - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 12:44 pm:

    I don’t think a law is necessary. Public education on the effects of head injuries should be enough. And the liability for these cumulative injuries will eventually end the sport in most cases.

    Sad but true.

  4. - Sox Fan - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 12:50 pm:

    Doesn’t effect most of the parents I know. There is no chance they are letting their kids play football anyway.

  5. - How Ironic - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 12:52 pm:

    Total common sense legislation. As a parent, I would never allow my child to play tackle football and as a taxpayer don’t look forward to supporting injured adults through Medicare/Medicade for injuries they suffered as a youth in football.

    Particularly in the case where a parent is essentially putting their child into harms way w/little regard (or care) for their personal well being.

  6. - wordslinger - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 12:57 pm:

    There have always been good reasons to not let your kids play football, just on the orthopedics alone.

    (There are very good reasons not to let your kid get a DL at 16, too).

    But I’m not seeing the point on this one. The real hitting starts after puberty, when the kids start getting bigger, stronger, faster.

    Check out a 10-year-old tackle game. There’s really not a whole lot of contact.

    CTE and football reseach is relatively new, but the phenomenon of a punch-drunk former pro football player is not. Same with boxing. But they’re smashing heads at a very different level.

    There are millions who played football through high school. Do we think there are millions of former high school players with CTE?

  7. - City Zen - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 12:58 pm:

    7 on 7 flag football provides kids with all the basics of football play and strategy without the tackling.

  8. - Rich Miller - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 1:00 pm:

    ===When I was growing up, there was no tackle football in the Springfield area until you were 12===

    Same in my areas. There was just no such thing as little kids playing football until junior high.

  9. - illinois manufacturer - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 1:03 pm:

    One nfl player I heard went beyond Harbaugh. He said college because the nfl scouting system doe not care about your high school football record.

  10. - Blue dog dem - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 1:04 pm:

    I am waiting for the last straw. When will the trial lawyers line up to sue schools for damages. It is only a matter of time.

  11. - Cubs in '16 - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 1:08 pm:

    My sons never expressed interest in playing tackle football but I wouldn’t have allowed them to if they did. The risks far outweigh the benefits when they can learn the same life lessons from less dangerous team sports.

    For me, the opinions of current and former football players hold more weight than any others. Many of them say it’s dangerous and I believe them. And, John Rawlssss, sometimes legislating “morality” is necessary to protect innocents when the adults won’t exercise common sense.

  12. - Lil Squeezy - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 1:09 pm:

    I do not understand the benefit of tackle football at young ages. What skill are you learning that could not otherwise be learned at an older age or by playing flag football or another sport?

  13. - wordslinger - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 1:09 pm:

    –There was just no such thing as little kids playing football until junior high.–

    Same with me, but we knocked heads real good at recess and after school, without pads or helmets.

  14. - Last Bull Moose - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 1:09 pm:

    I thoroughly enjoyed my high school and college football days. Bur I would not let my son play contact football until 8th grade.

    I was not thinking of brain injury at the time, but was concerned that the long bones in the body are not set and an injury to the leg could stop growth of that leg.

    The State does have a role to play here. As we know better we do better. We now know that tackle football at early ages is not safe.

    At least one of my college teammates who played in the pros had some brain damage. For the others, it is a fear to which they admit.

  15. - PublicServant - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 1:11 pm:

    We used to play tackle for a year on the front lawn of a General Electric facility in chicago. They saw no harm in it, and let us play. No pads, helmet…nothing. Two problems caused us to abandon that idea. (1) One of our friends, “Big Mike”, did his name justice, and pretty much scored any time he got the ball. (2) A sidewalk was at the 50 yard line. I crosschecked Big Mike just before the fifty yard line, bounced off him, landed on the sidewalk, where Big Mike fell on me because my crosscheck was very well placed.

    That play ended no-pad pick-up tackle football among my friends anyway. Big Mike and I laugh at that play to this day. We laugh till it hurts…that doesn’t take long.

  16. - crazybleedingheart - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 1:13 pm:

    == John Calabria, head of the Schaumburg Athletic Association’s football program, says the legislation is over-reaching.

    “You’re not getting that growth, that ability to be a teammate,” he said. “Hard work, ethics, all that is taken away. Yes, you get some of that with flag football, but not to the fullest effect as with tackle (football).” ==

    Not pictured: Hard work, ethics

  17. - wordslinger - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 1:14 pm:

    –I do not understand the benefit of tackle football at young ages.–

    To crush your enemies, to see your enemies driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women.

    Seriously, it’s a blast. To date, a socially acceptable way to engage in controlled violence.

  18. - Phenomynous - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 1:15 pm:

    The hardest and most dangerous hits I ever took was from playing neighborhood football with my friends. No pads, no helmet. Just a bunch of boys acting like absolute animals.
    Some of my fondest memories were formed on that vacant lot. You can’t legislate that danger away, and I would venture to guess that more long-term injuries happen in the yard, then they do in an organized field where pads and rules are enforced.

    Let the kids play.

  19. - crazybleedingheart - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 1:15 pm:

    stuck in spam

  20. - CentrIL - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 1:27 pm:

    I grew up playing pop Warner and played into college. I don’t think the government has a place mandating this, but I for one won’t allow my children to play tackle football until they are in 8th grade. I know I suffered my first of five concussions as a 7th grader. I’m not anti-football nor am I a fan of this bill. Let the locals decide the fate of their own programs. I believe most sensible adults would allow flag football to suffice until the bodies of our youth are developed. Let logic and reason win, not legislation.

  21. - Peters Post - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 1:33 pm:

    Boxed in 6th, 7th and 8th grades while in Catholic School. I thought every boy in parochial grammar school did the same. Using one pound gloves and headgear made it pretty safe. Not too many kids could land an effective blow. Boxing though has the concept of equal weight classes, skill and referee controlling the harm. And I still remember and live by many life lessons from Harold my coach. So I would say if there are similar cautions taken in youth football, it can be done safely and teach life lessons.

  22. - A Jack - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 1:41 pm:

    I agree 100% with this bill. Some youth teams are all out to win and will hurt the opposing team if they can. The refs don’t catch everything and will look the other way for some home team violations.

  23. - Just Observing - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 1:52 pm:

    ^^^ Supposed to be a question mark at the end of my last sentence above.

  24. - Just Observing - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 1:54 pm:

    ===When I was growing up, there was no tackle football in the Springfield area until you were 12===

    Same in my areas. There was just no such thing as little kids playing football until junior high.

    Yep. My son is nine years old — he plays organized flag football along with most of his friends. I don’t know any boys in our town that play tackle football, and I don’t even know where that would be offered.

  25. - Steve Rogers - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 2:00 pm:

    “The government is wrong to legislate morality”

    Why? It’s been doing it since day 1. Can’t buy a car on Sunday. Couldn’t even buy alcohol on Sundays until recently. Marijuana? Illegal. Murder and rape? I’d call those legislating morality too.

  26. - wordslinger - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 2:03 pm:

    –”The government is wrong to legislate morality”–

    Yeah, what’s with all those murder laws, anyway?

    And youth football is not even remotely a “moral question.”

    That ringing in your ears is not Pavlov’s Bell.

  27. - crazybleedingheart - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 2:39 pm:

    ==I believe most sensible adults would allow flag football to suffice until the bodies of our youth are developed. ==


    Who pays the price when adults lack sense?

  28. - AlfondoGonz - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 3:04 pm:

    I played football from my freshman year in high school until my senior year in college. Every year, we had to sign waivers that advised we were aware that concussions, spinal injuries, and death were possibilities we faced if we elected to play football. Now, at almost 30 years old, my knees are banged up and my neck requires a good 30 minute warmup before I can check my blind spot, but I wouldn’t trade the lessons I learned and the relationships I formed while I played football for all the grunge music in Seattle.

    For what it is worth, I played baseball from the time I was 4 until my freshman year in college, and baseball is my first love. However, the there is no comparing the sports when it comes to team bonding and hard work (in my experience). Football is just different.

    I totally respect anyone who says they woudln’t let their children play, because the risks are real. But I would not hesitate to share my thoughts on the matter.

  29. - Saluki - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 3:16 pm:

    I hope the pot legalization bill and this can be put together into one bill.

  30. - Retired - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 3:20 pm:

    Concussions can be the result of repeated headers in soccer. Should headers also be banned?

  31. - DuPage Bard - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 3:29 pm:

    Football is on the decline in many suburbs. Parents are waiting until later for their child to get involved, if at all.
    That said, when the argument is made about future Medicaid/Medicare costs associated with CTE, why aren’t you advocating for bills that ban children under a certain age from purchasing sugary products?
    The amounts of childhood obesity and long term diabetes far outweigh the amount of CTE cases. Yet if anyone proposed that legislation it would laughed out of the Capitol.

  32. - wordslinger - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 3:30 pm:

    –I am waiting for the last straw. When will the trial lawyers line up to sue schools for damages. It is only a matter of time.–

    Well, it’s been about 140 years and counting since they’ve been playing football in schools. What’s your ETA on when your deep, informed thoughts will come to pass?

    You’d be aware of inherent risk laws and required waivers if you bothered to obtain a speck of knowledge on the subject you’re commenting on.

    But why start now?

  33. - Precinct Captain - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 3:30 pm:

    ==- John Rawlssss - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 12:40 pm:==

    So you’re against murder statutes?

  34. - wordslinger - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 3:31 pm:

    –Concussions can be the result of repeated headers in soccer.–

    CTE and concussions aren’t the same thing.

  35. - Last Bull Moose - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 4:34 pm:

    Concussions are part of what causes CTE. Soccer headers can cause problems with the brain.

  36. - Skeptic - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 4:37 pm:

    “Should headers also be banned?” Sliding tackles are for safety reasons, so why not headers?

  37. - wordslinger - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 4:40 pm:

    –Concussions are part of what causes CTE. –

    The research shows that concussions are not a pre-req for CTE. It’s repeated hits.

  38. - Anonymous - Saturday, Jan 27, 18 @ 8:31 am:

    Soccer already implemented a U11 heading ban.

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