Illinois Bill Aims To End Youth Tackle Football

The O'Fallon Little Panthers youth football team after a game in 2008.

The O'Fallon Little Panthers youth football team after a game in 2008.

US Air Force

A new plan in Illinois aims to end youth tackle football programs with the goal of preventing Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative disease of the brain caused by repetitive brain trauma. 

The bill bears the name of Dave Duerson, a 1985 Chicago Bear who killed himself, shooting himself in the chest in order to preserve his brain for research. 

Tregg Duerson, Dave’s son, says he hopes sharing his father's story will give the bill necessary momentum. “When I look at my father’s action of donating his brain in the very last moments of his life, that was someone who was trying to be helpful and trying to be part of the solution to the greater problem of concussions and brain trauma.”

Research proved Duerson did suffer from CTE. Something Tregg says he recognizes now in hindsight.

"He showed that he was forgetful and confused and disoriented. I can also point to times when he was just overwhelmed with anger and depression," says Tregg. "When I think about my father and all he experienced, I really look at the suicide note that he left me and my family. In that note he described his troubles with memory, blurred vision, writing and spelling, as well as the pain he felt in his head." 

State Representative Carol Sente, a Democrat from Vernon Hills is sponsoring the bill. Sente says research and data prove the risks of playing tackle football "aren't worth it." 

"I'm not trying to ban football. You can balance protecting football with protecting our kids," says Sente. "Illinois has been a leader in concussion legislation and I'm proud of that. We want to be the leader in the CTE issue." 

Illinois has made improvements in concussion protocols, including a 2015 law requiring athletic programs to develop concussion response procedures. Although some suggest smaller schools or programs with limited resources may be at a disadvantage. 

A recent study found CTE in 110 out of 111 deceased NFL players whose brains were analyzed.

If approved Illinois would be the first state to ban youth tackle football.  

Story source: Illinois Public Radio