NY Democrats want to sack tackle football as too dangerous for young kids

New York Post

February 9, 2023

Children under age 12 would no longer be able to play tackle football under legislation introduced this week by Albany Democrats ahead of Super Bowl Sunday.

Football ought to follow the lead of soccer and hockey that have already respectively banned heading and body checks for kids under 10 and 13 years old, says bill sponsor Assemblyman Michael Benedetto (D-Bronx).

“Those sports have recognized the inherent danger that is in that sports and they’re trying to protect young kids,” he said.

“Football hasn’t done that yet and so when they don’t do it, there’s a responsibility of us in government to try to protect those kids.”

Benedetto noted that children’s brains are roughly 90% developed by age 12.

“When kids start playing these peewee football games, they are almost like little bobblehead dolls running around with their little brains inside their oversized skulls,” Benedetto said.

The bill, which would take effect immediately if enacted, has a better chance than ever of becoming law after 10 years of effort by Benedetto, who has recruited state Sen. Luis Sepúlveda (D-Bronx) to introduce the legislation for the first time in the upper chamber.

He said approximately 85,000 kids would be affected by any future ban on tackle football in leagues organized by the likes of Pop Warner-Youth Football-Youth Cheer, which did not provide immediate comment Thursday.

A spokesperson for Gov. Kathy Hochul, who generally refrains from speaking about pending bills, did not provide immediate comment on whether she would sign into law the legislation to make New York the first state to ban tackle football for the youngest players.

The John Mackey Youth Football Protection Act is named in honor of an NFL player from New York who died in 2011 after developing chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a brain condition associated with hard-hitting sports.

Scientific understanding about the dangers of CTE has grown since then though much of the available research focuses on male athletes of adult age, limiting understanding about sports-related brain trauma for women and children.

The Pop Warner website lists a few ways the national youth sports organization has moved to make the game safe for children given the relatively limited understanding of the effects tackle football has on the developing brain.

“We’ve instituted the nation’s most advanced safety measures, including limiting contact to 25% of practice time, eliminating kickoffs and the three-point stance for our youngest divisions, banning full-speed, head-on tackling and blocking drills and mandating that any player who suffers a suspected head injury receive medical clearance from a medical professional trained in concussion evaluation and management before returning to play,” reads the website.

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