Proposal banning tackle football for kids under 12 moves forward

CHICAGO -- A state plan to ban tackle football for some younger children is making its way through Springfield, clearing a big hurdle Thursday morning as it heads to a vote.

The proposal banning kids under 12 from playing tackle football passed the Illinois House's Mental Health Committee Thursday. It's called the Dave Duerson Act, named after the former Chicago Bears player who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 2011 and was later determined to be suffering the effects of CTE.

Duerson's son Tregg testified in favor of the bill, saying that his father was often depressed and angry later in life. Medical experts testified to its benefits in Springfield Thursday.

"They put on a large plastic helmet with a face mask and hit their heads against each other or the ground hundreds of times a season. Inside those helmets is that precious thing - the brain," said Dr. Robert Stern, Boston University. "Unfortunately even the best helmets can't protect the brain each time they get hit."

Dr. Stern and the others who testified say they want kids to take advantage of youth sports, to be active and social but not at the risk of harming the brain later in life.

Chris Nowinski, who played football at Harvard and then wrestled for the WWE, had his own brain trauma issues, and is now a part of the Concussion Legacy Foundation. He said kids should start later in life.

"Almost everybody who has had a long career has had this disease," Nowinski said. "We have to shorten the number of years we play this game like we shorten the number of years someone smokes to prevent lung cancer."

But some coachesand parents are more in favor of promoting proper tackling and limiting contact in practice, as well as sitting players who show signs of a concussion for weeks or months.

Chris Borland, who played linebacker at UW Madision and in the NFL for the 49ers, says he believes there is just no way to guarantee kids will not suffer some sort of head injury, no matter how much teaching on proper technique they are given

"I think the wisest thing to do is to wait until high school," Borland said.