Dozens of protesters including young football players and their parents rallied at the Massachusetts State House Tuesday to urge lawmakers to reject a proposal that would ban tackling in football for young children.
Kids waved signs reading “Kill the Bill” and “Save Youth Football” while members and allies of the Massachusetts Youth Football Alliance, which organized the rally, argued that youth football is safe, and that two bills under consideration represented state intrusion onto a choice belonging to parents.
“Our game has become safer. We train our coaches extremely well,” said Joyce Spiegel, a Tyngsborough mother who supports allowing tackling.
Two legislative proposals stand at the center of debate.
One would ban tackle football for all kids in the seventh grade or below while still allowing other types of non-tackle football.
The other would create a state commission charged with investigating sports-related injuries in school-age children.
Andre Tippett, a Hall of Fame linebacker who played for the New England Patriots for a decade, coached youth football when his son was young.
He said new injury and concussion rules, along with changes in tackling during practice, are reducing injuries.
“I had to figure out a new way to do tackling drills so we’d use bags all the time. No one would ever hit bodies. It was always safety equipment that was used,” said Tippett.
USA Football, the governing body for the sport, said in a statement that new rules and equipment are improving the game for children.
“Football is safer today than it’s ever been because of greater awareness and important new rules introduced to the sport,” USA Football said in the statement. “This means that no youth coach should walk on a field without being certified and multiple options and entry points to play football are available to Bay State families.”
Scientists at Boston University are leading the research into CTE, a form of brain injury associated with repeated blows to the head.
Their research says that the hundreds of blows football players endure each season can lead to CTE and permanent impairment.
Neurologist Dr. Robert Cantu told the NBC10 Boston Investigators in 2017 that he supports youth tackling bans.
“Some at the age of 14 are skeletally mature equal to adults, and others at 14 could be a year or two behind,” he said.
Chris Nowinski, co-founder of the Concussion Legacy Foundation and a former professional wrestler, said his organization supports the ban, also known as the No Hits bill.
“Should a young child to be exposed to hundreds of head impacts each fall, for any reason? If the answer is no, then No Hits secures a safer future for football players,” he said in a statement.
The Legislature is still in the early stages of considering those bills.