Two bills were proposed in state legislatures this week that would ban tackle football in youth football organizations before the age of 12, citing concerns about the risks for long-term brain trauma and chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
The bill proposed in Illinois is named the “Dave Duerson Act to Prevent CTE” after the former Chicago Bears player diagnosed with CTE.
“We have an obligation to protect children’s futures, especially when we know how brain trauma can be prevented,” Duerson’s son, Tregg Duerson, told Chicago’s ABC7-TV on Thursday.
The New York bill is similarly named after John Mackey, a Hall of Fame-er from the Baltimore Colts who lived with severe dementia and memory loss related to his brain injuries.
“Playing with [kids] 5 years old up to 12, it’s just not right,” Mackey’s widow told a Sports & Society panel at the Aspen Institute. “I cringe now when I see a ballplayer being tackled. His head hits the ground, his neck snaps, it bounces back up — when in the past, that wasn’t even an issue.”
The bills are aimed at protecting developing brains from repeated trauma from collisions that could contribute to CTE, Chris Nowinksi told Reuters. Nowinski is the head of the Concussion Legacy Foundation, which helps operate the largest brain bank devoted to traumatic brain injury and CTE research.
Nowinski also noted that studies have found an association between the duration of a player’s career and the risk for long-term damage.
One such study from Boston University found that male athletes who began playing football before their twelfth birthday may be more likely to show behavioral and mood-related issues later in life compared to those who began playing later.
The study also found that youth football players receive approximately 250 head impacts per seasons.
While the NFL has not directly responded to the proposed bills, spokesman Brian McCarthy released a statement saying: “We hope that all youth sports will continue to take measures to reduce head contact through similar rules changes, education and improved protective equipment.”
Neither bill is expected to pass into law, but they serve as a warning shot that state governments are beginning to seriously examine the risks of youth football and the long-term risks of brain trauma at a young age.