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Is Tackle Football Safe For Kids? Another State Is Considering A Ban

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Although arguably fun, tackle football is undoubtedly a rough sport. In fact, research continues to suggest there's a link between the head injuries typically sustained in the sport and significant health problems such as depression, cognitive disorders, and decreased brain function. And for that reason, many people have begun to question if tackle football is safe for kids as another state considers a ban on kids under 12 playing the sport.

Lawmakers in New York City held a hearing Tuesday to discuss legislation that would ultimately bar children under the age of 12 from playing tackle football in the state. If passed, New York would become the first state to implement a ban on children's tackle football, although legislators in Massachusetts and New Jersey are currently considering similar bills, according to advocates.

The bill currently under debate in New York stems from legislation Assemblyman Michael Benedetto first introduced in 2017, according to USA Today. That bill, which called for a ban on anyone under the age of 13 playing tackle football, ultimately failed to find favor with other legislators, USA Today reported. Legislative records show that Benedetto introduced a revised version of his original ban, this time for children under 12, earlier this year.

Although no vote has yet to be held on the ban, New York State Assembly's health committee was reportedly moved to hold a hearing after recently released research suggested that the longer tackle football is played, the more likely an individual will experience a neurodegenerative disease, according to The Post-Standard. In a study published in early October, researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine CTE Center reported finding that for every year of tackle football played, a player's risk of developing chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) increased by 30%. What's more, researchers found that for every 2.6 years of play, risk of CTE doubled.

Additionally, research has shown there's little doubt that even young tackle football players are taking hits. A previous study from researchers at Virginia Tech and Wake Forest University found that children as young as 9 years old sustained hundreds of blows to the head in both games and practices throughout just one season of tackle football.

"It is an important discussion," Benedetto said of the health risks associated with youth tackle football during Tuesday's hearing. "And it is a discussion that is propelled by the studies that have been made throughout the United States, and the world for that matter, on the seriousness of subconcussive blows to the head, concussions, on child development and their brains."

Of course, not everyone agrees with Benedetto's assessment that young children should be barred from playing tackle football. At Tuesday's hearing Scott Hallenbeck, the CEO of USA Football, said the the national governing body opposed bans on youth tackle football, asserting that the sport was now safer than ever thanks to a number of different safety standards, including increased certification for coaches and limits on how long players spend playing full contact.

"Parents do not what their governments telling them when their kids can play football, they want to make informed decisions for themselves," Hallenbeck told legislators at New York State Assembly's health committee hearing. "They need information and options to determine what is best for their child."

Studies referenced:

Mez, J., Daneshvar, D. H., Abdolmohammadi, B., Chua, A. S., Alosco, M. L., Kiernan, P. T., McKee, A. C. (2019). Duration of American football play and chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Annals of Neurology.https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ana.25611

Cobb, B. R., Urban, J. E., Davenport, E. M., Rowson, S., Duma, S. M., Maldjian, J. A., Stitzel, J. D. (2013). Head Impact Exposure in Youth Football: Elementary School Ages 9–12 Years and the Effect of Practice Structure. Annals of Biomedical Engineering , 2463–2473. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10439-013-0867-6