Proposed legislation prohibiting children under the age of 12 from participating in organized tackle football will now be considered by the Illinois House of Representatives.
Named the Dave Duerson Act to Prevent CTE, the bill honors a former Chicago Bears defensive back who committed suicide at the age of 50. Duerson was posthumously diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain diseased linked to repeated head trauma.
The announcement was made Thursday in a news conference by state Rep. Carol Sente (D), who said in a statement, "We all want kids to have fun playing football and to learn to play the game the right way early on, but the overwhelming data and powerful stories of our supporters here today show the risks of playing tackle football before turning 12 just aren't worth it."
Sente was accompanied by former Chicago Bears players and Duerson teammates Mike Adamle and Otis Wilson, along with Chris Nowinski of the Concussion Legacy Foundation. Also present was Liz Nicholson, widow of former Cleveland Browns player Gerry Sullivan.
In a hearing the day before, Duerson's son, Tregg, spoke about how his father's life had been impacted from the effects of CTE.
"He went from a Harvard-educated successful businessman to an individual who struggled with bankruptcy, urges of physical assault and also depression," he said.
Last year, a Boston University study found evidence of CTE in 110 of the 111 NFL players' brains they analyzed. In response to the evidence, the NFL acknowledged the link between football and CTE for the first time. The league had previously agreed to a $1 billion settlement with former players in 2015, and has committed hundreds of millions of dollars to support medical and neuroscience research.
Legislators in other states, like Maryland and New York, have also proposed measures to prevent kids from playing tackle football. But parents' concerns about concussions and CTE are already causing a decline in the sport's participation rate among youth.
Adam Campbell, who runs Chicago's Canaryville Lions youth football program spoke with a Chicago Tribune reporter about the issue last year.
"It certainly doesn't help that concussion is on a lot of moms' minds," Campbell said. "And I'm hearing it from dads who are saying, 'I played but I don't want my kids to play.'"