Lawmakers in Massachusetts have introduced legislation that would ban children in the seventh grade or younger from playing tackle football to prevent them from suffering traumatic head injuries.
The Act for No Organized Head Impacts to Schoolchildren, or the NO HITS Act, was introduced last month in an effort to protect children’s heads from blows while at a particularly vulnerable age.
“Soccer has age restrictions for head contact. Lacrosse has age restrictions. Hockey has age restrictions for head contact. Football doesn’t,” Rep. Paul A. Schmid III (D), who introduced the bill with House Minority Leader Bradley Jones (R), told The Herald News.
The bill, which would still allow flag or touch football to be played, would impose fines of up to $2,000 for each violation. Repeat offenders, or those whose actions cause physical harm, would face stiffer fines.
“It’s all about kids’ health and we have a number of studies that say that repeated contacts to the head are very bad for you and the younger that starts, the worse it is,” Schmid added.
According to a 2017 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers examining 111 brains belonging to former NFL players found the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, in 110 of them.
The disease is associated with repeated head trauma, not just concussions, and is generally found in athletes, military veterans and others with a history of repetitive brain trauma, according to the Concussion Legacy Foundation, a nonprofit that works to study, treat and prevent future instances of brain trauma among athletes and other at-risk groups.
Some of the disease’s symptoms include impulse control problems, aggression, depression and paranoia. Last month, the parents of a 21-year-old Washington State quarterback spoke out after he was found to have Stage I of CTE when he took his own life while battling depression.
The CLF is among those advocating against children playing tackle football when they are under the age of 14, reasoning that a child’s head, which is still developing at that age, is far more susceptible to injury than heads of those age 14 or older.
“Because the head grows faster than the body, a child’s large head makes head impacts inevitable, more powerful and more dangerous,” its website states.
Several former NFL players, who have been directly or indirectly affected by CTE, have argued differently, however.
“I made the mistake starting tackle football at 9 years old. Now, CTE has taken my life away. Youth tackle football is all risk with no reward,” Pro Football Hall of Famer Nick Buoniconti told CNN last year.
Fellow football greats Harry Carson and Phil Villapiano have also advocated against youth tackle football with the Concussion Legacy Foundation. Villapiano has agreed to donate his brain to science and Carson asked a congressional panel in 2017 for parents to be made aware of the risks of head trauma before signing up their child to play.
Every parent should be informed. They should be informed as to what risks they are subjecting their kids to.
Pro Football Hall of Famer Harry Carson
“Every parent should be informed. They should be informed as to what risks they are subjecting their kids to,” Carson said. “Understand that your child could be subject to a neurological injury that could affect them for the rest of their lives.”
Former Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo also recently said he wouldn’t allow his sons to play tackle football until they’re in the eighth grade, though he added that he believes everyone can make their own decision.
“I don’t think you gain anything from doing it, is what I believe, and there’s only a downside,” he told Dr. Phil.