The state of Illinois just took a massive step toward banning tackle football for children under the age of 12.
Late Thursday, the Illinois House mental health committee voted to pass HB 4341, and it will now head to the House for a full debate and final vote.
HB 4341, also known as the Dave Duerson Act, would strictly prohibit any children under the age of 12 from participating in tackle football.
The bill is named after former Chicago Bears and New York Giants defensive back Dave Duerson. He won two Super Bowls, one with each team. Duerson was also a key part of the 1985 Chicago Bears, widely considered one of the greatest football teams of all time.
Sadly, Duerson killed himself at the age of 50 in 2011. He shot himself in the chest after leaving a note saying that he wanted his brain to be used for CTE studies.
CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, is a degenerative brain disease characterized by memory loss and violent mood swings, among other issues. It’s been linked to multiple activities that regularly feature blows to the head, including football, boxing and professional wrestling. The concerns about CTE have been prevalent enough that all three have undergone extensive concussion protocol overhauls in recent years.
Many experts in the field claim that fewer total years of playing tackle football greatly reduces the chances of a player developing CTE later in life, hence the building support for HB 4341.
Despite ultimately passing to the next level, HB 4341 is hardly a one-sided issue.
The bill passed the mental health committee with the bare minimum number of votes required. It passed 11-9.
The family that Duerson left behind has been a major driving force in HB 4341.
“This is a first down,” Duerson’s son, Tregg, emotionally said as the votes were being tallied. “It’s going to be a long process.”
Duerson passionately pleaded with lawmakers, characterizing the tragic downfall of his father.
“He went from a Harvard-educated, successful businessman to a shadow of himself,” Tregg said. “He struggled with bankruptcy, urges of physical assault and depression. In the note he left for us, he mentioned issues with blurred vision, memory loss and an ability to control his own temperament. This bill honors my family’s hope and my father’s legacy to protect future athletes and the future of football.”
The traumatic experience of losing his father the way he did has soured Tregg Duerson on football, seemingly forever.
“No. Really it’s an absolutely ‘no’ for me,” he said when asked by the Chicago Tribune if he’d ever let his sons play football.
Three other states — New York, California and Maine — have introduced similar bills. None, however, have advanced as far as Illinois’ HB 4341.
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