Illinois lawmaker proposing pre-teen tackle football ban

Law would be named after Chicago Bear Dave Duerson
Illinois lawmaker proposing pre-teen tackle football ban
Posted at 3:00 PM, Jan 29, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-29 16:00:39-05

Illinois lawmaker, Rep. Carol Sente (D-Vernon Hills), is proposing a state ban on tackle football for children younger than 12 years old. 

The law would be named the Dave Duerson Act, in memory of the Chicago Bears' defensive back  who was found to suffer from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). 

 "When my father tragically took his own life, he donated his brain to science in hopes of being part of the solution," said Tregg Duerson, who like his father played football at Notre Dame.

Representative Sente added, "The risks of playing football before turning 12 just aren't worth it." 

Duerson, a member of the 1985 Bears Super Bowl suffle team, shot himself in the chest at the age of 50 so that his brain could be studied for signs of CTE, the degenerative disease that has been linked to repeated head trauma.

Deurson is far from the only player to suffer from the disease.

Mike Webster, a Tomahawk, Wisconsin native, was a 4-time Super Bowl champion with the Pittsburgh Steelers beforehe struggled with serious mental illness later in his lifeand was found living out of his pickup truck or in trains stations between Wisconsin and Pittsburgh. 

Webster was diagnosed with CTE after his death in 2002, and was featured in the 2015 movie Concussion as the subject of Dr. Bennet's Omalu's groundbreaking research. 

Other Chicago Bears are stepping in to aid the Duerson act, including his teammate, legendary linebacker Otis Wilson.

 Wilson said he hasn't had any CTE symptoms but he plans to donate his brain to research.

 "I don't need it where I'm going so might as well be able to help the process," he said. "There are a lot of individuals that have this issue and the more research that's being done, hopefully we can have something to combat it."

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."

Further, reportsthat 47 percent of all reported sports concussions occur in high school football, and 4 to 5 million concussions occur annually, with rising numbers among middle school athletes