MAHOMET, Ill. (WCIA) — Many are furious over a state bill trying to ban kids under the age of 12 from playing tackle football.
Some lawmakers in Central Illinois say they’ve gotten hundreds of calls and messages from concerned parents. Those parents say the government should stay out of it, and let families decide whether their kids play.
It’s trying to stop players from being exposed to CTE early on. CTE is caused by repetitive hits to the head and the resulting concussions over a period of years.
Many families and lawmakers say they’re irritated the state is getting involved.
“When we heard about it we were a little bit surprised.”
That shock turned to anger when they found out exactly what some lawmakers were trying to pass.
“These kids aren’t hitting hard enough to cause these concussions that are then leading to CTE.”
Nikki Gallier is president of Mahomet-Seymour Youth Football.
She says the group already does plenty to make sure kids are safe. That includes teaching proper tackling technique and fundamentals, making sure coaches are trained in heads-up tackling, and keeping equipment up to date.
Supporters of the bill say steps like these aren’t enough.
“We have to protect our most precious and important people in this world and that’s children.”
The bill’s author says athletes who begin playing contact sports at a younger age are at greater risk for CTE.
Other lawmakers disagree. State Senator Chapin Rose says the state has no business trying to flag what sports kids can, or can’t play.
“This is no place for government to be involved, let youth sports be youth sports.”
Rose says he was surprised when the bill was filed, and says it’s a distraction from lawmakers focusing on fixing the budget.
For Gallier, it’s about more than banning a sport.
“They’re banning the fundamental skill training about how to tackle properly with that heads-up training when they’re young.”
“Then we’re going to throw them in at 13 years of age when they’re physically more mature and going through puberty and they’re not going to have proper form or technique.”
Gallier says she believes holding football players from playing until they’re over 13 is riskier than letting them play when they’re under 12 years old. Many say there are other benefits to youth football as well, like coaches serving as positive role models.