Lawmakers on the Illinois House's mental health committee have passed a measure to ban children under 12 years old from playing tackle football.
The law, dubbed the “Dave Duerson Act,” after the former Bears great, passed the committee on an 11-9 vote, and will head to the House for a full debate.
A vote on the measure, aimed at reducing the risk of Chronic Traumatic Encepholopathy (CTE) in children), is expected in the near future.
Duerson’s son spoke at the hearing, and spoke of the toll that CTE took on his father, who took his own life in 2011.
“In his lifetime he went from being a Harvard educated successful businessman to a shadow of himself,” he said.
The neuro-degenerative disease is found in people who experience multiple head injuries and repetitive sub-concussive hits to the head, both of which are commonly found in football players.
“Almost anybody who’s had a long career has had this disease,” Concussion Foundation CEO Chris Nowinsky said at the hearing.
House Bill 4341 would prevent children under the age of 12 from playing tackle football, and while similar legislation is being discussed in New York and California, there are opponents who say legislation is not the answer.
“The sport is now safer than it’s ever been,” Schaumburg Athletic Association Commissioner John Calabria said. “We have new techniques, new helmets, and all new safety precautions all around. There are some dangers, but the benefits outweigh those dangers.”
Still, with mounting data indicating that cumulative head trauma – particularly in younger children – can lead to long-term neurological damage, sponsors say it’s time to regulate the sport.
“Why wouldn’t we error on the side of science, and not allow children under the age of 12 to play tackle football until we can prove 100 percent that it’s safe?” Illinois State Senator Carol Sente said.