Poll: 7 out of 10 football fans support rule changes to make football safer

Rochester First

February 8, 2023

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — A bill that would ban children under 12 from playing tackle football is receiving renewed attention as some fans of the sport are supporting rules to make football safer.

New York State Assembly bill A04116 was originally introduced in 2021 as the tenth attempt from Sen. Luis Sepulveda to push the legislation, but following Bills’ safety Damar Hamlin’s hospitalization, conversations around player health have seen a strong resurgence.

After Damar Hamlin’s injury on the football field in early January, parents like Nadia Knight are rethinking certain sports for their kids.

“It definitely had me reconsidering football to be honest, I’m not gonna lie, you know, it’s scary,” she said.

Sports Management expert Dr. Todd Harrison (also Interim Associate Dean for St. John Fisher School of Business), said this comes at a time where many are reflecting on Hamlin’s injury. But, this bill is likely not a direct effect, since it’s been in conversation for years.

“This is talking about brain injuries, so thinking about collision type sports with kids,” said Harrison.

Harrison said lawmakers argue an underdeveloped brain may be more susceptible to concussions. More and more parents, he’s noticing, are starting conversations about it. Some, are turning their child to flag football instead.

“The game has so many values in teamwork, doing your job, roles you play,” said Harrison. “So how do you find a balance between playing this sport that has so many positive attributes, and what are the possible physical ramifications.”

Seven out of ten people support rules to make football safer, according to a recent poll conducted by the Siena College Research Institute and St. Bonaventure University. Also, 71% of football fans have said that doctors — who are not paid by football teams — should decide on whether an injured player can re-enter the game.

79% of fans in the poll say that there should be rules in place to reduce football players from getting neurological injuries — even if the new rules greatly change the game.

One of these neurological injuries includes Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, most commonly referred to as CTE. CTE is a brain disease that can be caused by repeated head trauma, which can lead to complications such as memory loss, depression, anxiety, issues with impulse control, and even suicide.

In a 2017 study, the brains of 202 deceased football players — and 111 deceased NFL players — were examined. The study diagnosed 87% of all the players with CTE, with 99% of the sampled NFL players being diagnosed as well.

Not long ago, more deceased players were discovered to have had CTE. Demaryius Thomas, an NFL wide receiver who died in December 2021, was revealed to have suffered from CTE. It was revealed Thomas was dealing with depression and anxiety before his death.

This proposal comes a month after Bills’ safety Damar Hamlin suffered from cardiac arrest in the middle of a game against the Cincinnati Bengals. After tackling wide receiver Tee Higgins, Hamlin got up and then promptly collapsed. He was discharged from the hospital after a week.

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