Editorial, Opinion

EDITORIAL: Mass. bill would rightfully ban tackle football for children, adolescents

State representatives Bradley Jones Jr. and Paul Schmid III introduced “An Act for No Organized Head Impacts to Schoolchildren,” or NO HITS Act, which would prohibit organized tackle football for grades seven and under. The bill notes that non-tackle football would still be allowed.

Tackle football is a violent sport. It should not be allowed for young children. Serious injuries, to the head and other parts of the body, can result from playing it.

The best argument against a ban on tackle football is that the government doesn’t have a place in deciding how people can play sports. But head injuries are a crisis in football, so this is not just a sports issue — it’s a public health issue, too.

Under the proposed bill, any school, league or other organized football entity could be fined up to $2,000 per violation. Future violations may incur fines up to $5,000, and a violation that directly leads to serious physical harm could result in fines of up to $10,000.

The Boston University CTE Center found that chronic traumatic encephalopathy may develop as soon as one day after a mild head injury — whether or not a person has suffered a concussion. CTE is a neurodegenerative brain disease caused by repeated head traumas that cause a buildup of tau protein in blood vessels.

Alice Cronin-Golomb, the director of BU’s Center for Clinical Biopsychology, said in a Daily Free Press article that the buildup of this protein can cause multiple negative effects on mood and behavior.

The center’s researchers studied four deceased teenage athletes who had experienced mild head injuries one day to four months before their deaths, and they found evidence of CTE development in the teenagers’ brains, according to Cronin-Golomb.

Many sports have age restrictions on head contact — Schmid cited soccer, lacrosse and hockey as examples in a Boston Herald article. He explained that lawmakers need to intervene with football because unlike for other youth sports, football does not have a national federation.

Schmid added other sports chose age cutoffs for full-contact participation that were around seventh grade. For example, Soccer City Sports Center in Wilbraham bans heading in practice and games for players in programs for athletes under 12 years of age.

If minors want to learn how to tackle, they can do so in high school. Football is America’s sport, after all, and tackling is certainly a part of the professional game. But it doesn’t need to be a part of football leagues for youth.

There’s no “perfect” age at which to ban tackle football, but banning it for middle school-aged adolescents and younger children makes the most sense. High schoolers are able to better judge, along with their parents, whether or not they choose to compete in tackle football and subject themselves to the health consequences that could result.

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