Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Tackling in Youth Football

As the NFL continues to implement laws to protect players from head injuries, the state of Illinois is now considering legislature to protect young children whom participate in youth football. State representative Carol Sente has recently come under fire for her legislation that suggests limiting tackling during youth football practice. She is a democrat from Lincolnshire, whose only concern here is what effects that repeated hits to the head may have on the future of today's youth. She has worked closely with Dr. Larry Robbins, a Northbrook neurologist, to gather facts that have helped form her desire for this legislature.

Met with much resistance, Representative Sente has suggested limiting tackling during youth football to one practice per week. Coaches will argue that not learning how to tackle properly will put the players at greater risk. The opposite argument would be why a 7 or 8 year old needs to even play football, let alone tackle, being they won't play anything that resembles even a semi-important game until they would be a junior or senior in high school. Even then, we are still talking about a high school football game.

96% of high school football players will not play at a higher level. Put it in perspective.

In an effort to perhaps generate some discussion on our Blog and create some awareness on this very controversial and divided issue, I for one issue my support towards Representative Sente and her legislation. When is too young to play football? These kids are going out in 3rd & 4th grade to play tackle football. They have bones and brains that are nowhere near being fully developed. Yes, many will argue that the tackling force young children can initiate to one another is minimal, but is any amount of force necessary at that age?

I for one, never played youth football and did not play much football in high school for a lack of desire AND talent. But, as I grew up, youth football was 7th & 8th grade. Is that too young? I don't know. I do know that 7, 8, 9 years old is too young. For me, the only reason I even got involved in football was because of pressure from my friends and coaches to participate. While I took away many memories, friendships and many enjoyable moments, none of it changed the angst and nervousness I felt prior to every practice and every game..........for fear of actually having to participate on the field. And I wonder how many of the young boys involved in these youth leagues feel the same way - not forced, but perhaps prodded by their parents and their dreams of parenting a future football star.

I always try and picture what I would do with youth football if I had a son. I know that if something was to happen during youth football that would hamper him down the road -
knowing what we know now about concussions and their long term effects - I would have a very hard time forgiving myself for allowing him to play. It's certainly the choice of the child's parents to nudge their sons onto the field, but knowing what's at stake physically & mentally, it would certainly be my choice to nudge mine in a different direction.

In the end, I think you have to let the child decide, but it would be a lot easier if we could just wait a little longer before putting these boys in pads. The odds of injury are much, much greater than the odds of stardom. Is it worth it?  And why is there such a rush to get these kids out there? This will be interesting legislation to follow, and does government even have a right? I think getting the conversation started is a great start.

A couple articles on the subject:
Chicago Tribune
Quad-City Times

Check out the proposed legislation yourself:
Full Text of HB1205
Bill Status of HB1205

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