CHICAGO (CBS) — The son of Bears great Dave Duerson was in Springfield on Thursday to urge lawmakers to approve legislation aimed at preventing concussions in young football players.
State Rep. Carol Sente (D-Vernon Hills) has introduced legislation dubbed the “Dave Duerson Act,” which would ban children under age 12 from playing organized tackle football in Illinois.
The House Mental Health Committee was scheduled to hold a hearing on the proposal Thursday morning, and Duerson’s son planned to testify, along with former Bears player Mike Adamle, and experts on the degenerative brain disease CTE.
Adamle has said he’s suffering dementia, memory lapses and mood swings, and possible football-related CTE.
Duerson committed suicide in 2011 at the age of 50, and later was diagnosed with CTE, which is caused by repetitive brain trauma. His son, Tregg, has thrown his support behind the proposed youth tackle football ban.
“We now know with certainty that part of the solution is to guard our children’s developing brains from the dangers of tackle football,” Tregg Duerson said.
Sente and other supporters of the legislation have said the violent hits suffered on the football field can lead to rage, dementia, depression, and suicide. They believe even players who never suffer a concussion can develop CTE over time, due to the repetitive blows to the head most football players endure.
Dr. Chris Nowinski, co-founder and CEO of the Concussion Legacy Foundation, said research shows children under age 12 can suffer greater neurological damage from blows to the head.
“There’s a magical period of brain development that happens in your child between eight and twelve. It’s a terrible time to be hitting them in the head over and over again,” he said.
However, some youth football coaches have said kids won’t stop playing tackle football if the ban is approved, they just won’t get the proper training they need to avoid injuries.
“They’ll be unsupervised. They won’t be learning the proper techniques of the sport and when they do turn 12 or 13 and they start going to high school, they won’t be prepared,” said Patrick Murphy, a football coach with the Humboldt Park Patriots football program.
Murphy said he fears the proposed ban would lead to improper training and even more injuries for young football players.
While the legislation would prohibit children under age 12 from participating in organized tackle football, it would still allow them to play flag football or touch football.