By Frederick H. Lowe
The Illinois House is scheduled to debate House Bill 4341 known as the Dave Duerson Act that if passed by both houses and signed into law would permanently bench organized tackle football for children under 12 because of concerns about Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a degenerative disease found in people who have suffered repeated blows to the head.
Exposing young children to tackle football is dangerous, said Dr. Robert Stern, a professor of Neurology at Boston University and director of clinical research at BU’s Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center.
“We found that the former players who began playing tackle before age 12 had significantly worse cognitive functioning and changes in the brain through MRI scans compared to the ones who started at 12 or older,” he said.
The House mental health committee voted 11 to 9 vote on Thursday sending the legislation to the full House to debate and to vote. Neither has been scheduled.
Illinois has joined three other states—New York, California and Maryland—that have introduced legislation regulating tackle football for pre-teenagers.
Dave Duerson played defensive back for the Chicago Bears, New York Giants and Phoenix Cardinals. He was a member of the 1985 Super Bowl Champion Chicago Bears.
Duerson, who was suffering from CTE, killed himself in 2011. He shot himself in the chest to preserve his brain. In a suicide note, he asked his family to donate his brain to science. Duerson was 50.
Tregg Duerson, Dave Duerson’s son, told lawmakers his father struggled for years with what was ultimately diagnosed as CTE.
“He went from a Harvard-educated, successful businessman to shadow of himself,” Tregg said. “He struggled with bankruptcy, urges of physical assault and depression.”
Duerson’s family did not like the way he was portrayed in the 2o15 movie “Concussion. In the film starring, Will Smith, Duerson was shown as not caring about other football players who were suffering from CTE.