Rockford's Independent Newspaper

House committee passes tackle football ban for kids under 12

By Jim Hagerty

SPRINGFIELD — The proposal known as the “Dave Duerson Bill” passed out of committee Thursday and will now be placed on the floor for a full vote in the Illinois House of Representatives.

The vote was 11-9 by the House Mental Health Committee.

The bill bans tackle football in Illinois until age 12. Known officially as House Bill 4341, it was filed Jan. 25 by Veron Hills Democrat Carol Sente and aims to create the Dave Duerson Act to Prevent CTE, the acronym for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.

If approved and signed by the governor, the ban would cover public and private schools, athletic associations and park districts, allowing only flag football. Private tackle football leagues would also be affected.

Supporters say repetitive hits to the head that are common in tackle football leave young children more at risk of developing CTE. The condition is a progressive degenerative disease found in athletes who suffer prolonged brain trauma, even when protective head gear.

Although there are usually no early warning signs, CTE symptoms commonly appear eight to 10 years later. That’s when a host of symptoms like sensory disorders, depression, amnesia, dementia and paranoia start to arise.

Before Dave Duerson died, he sent a text to his family asking that his brain be used for CTE research. It was later found that he suffered from the disease. The four-time Bears Pro Bowler is part of a long list of NFL players whose autopsies revealed they, too, were stricken.

The list includes Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Mike Webster, who was featured in the film “Concussion;” Chargers, Dolphins and Patriots linebacker Junior Seau; and Eagles and Cardinals defensive back Andre Waters. Seau and Waters committed suicide. Although Webster’s cause of death was listed as a heart attack, he battled severe mental illness after football and some speculate that he took his own life.

Steelers lineman Terry Long died after drinking a gallon of antifreeze in 2005. Justin Strzelczyk also played , was killed in a high-speed car crash in 2004; and Tom McHale died of a drug overdose that same year. Autopsies also revealed CTE in the brains of Frank Gifford, Ken Stabler, Bubba Smith and Aaron Hernandez. R.

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