As Massachusetts lawmakers mull a bill that would ban tackle football leagues for players in seventh grade and under, USA Football spoke out against the act.
USA Football CEO Scott Hallenbeck testified Tuesday in front of the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Public Health against HB 2007.
“Parents do not want their government telling them when their kids can play football. We hear this from them often,” he said, according to document published online by the organization. “Instead, they want to make informed decisions for themselves. Parents need information and options in order to determine what is best for their child.”
“An Act for No Organized Head Impacts to Schoolchildren” was filed in January. The bill would enact fiscal penalties to leagues or schools that participate in tackle football for players seventh grade or under.
The first infraction would receive a fine up to $2,000. A repeat offender would be penalized up to $5,000, and bill includes a fine up to $10,000 “if the violation directly results in serious physical harm to any participant or participants.”
Rep. Paul A. Schmid III was one of two legislators who filed the bill. In February, he told the Herald News he would like the government to get involved because football doesn’t have a comparable federation to some other contact sports.
“Soccer has age restrictions for head contact. Lacrosse has age restrictions. Hockey has age restrictions for head contact. Football doesn’t,” Schmid said to the outlet. “We otherwise wouldn’t want to get involved in youth sports, but it turns out (football) doesn’t have a national federation like those other sports.”
Schmid added that seventh grade was around the cutoff other sports had for full-contact.
It would not restrict other levels of game play, including flag football.
Dr. Julian Bailes, the Director of Neurosurgery and Co-Director
of NorthShore University Health System Neurological Institute, testified with USA Football on Tuesday.
“The cause-and-effect relationship between chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and sport-related concussions or exposure to contact sports is incompletely understood,” he said, according to a document shared by USA Football. “Further, the facts do not support that there are cases of CTE from youth football participation alone.”
He called this bill “premature” and said more data is needed before there can be scientific recommendations at the youth level.
Player safety in football has been in the forefront as links to CTE appear in former NFL players and youth football participation rates decrease around in the nation.
In the 2008-09 school year, the number of 11-man football players increased to 1,113,062 participants, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations. That number had dropped more than 9% in the 2018-19 year, down to 1,008,417.
Massachusetts saw a 13% dropoff in boys 11-player participation during that time frame, down from 20,789 athletes to 18,019.