Tuesday, February 25, 2020
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Md. moves to keep young kids safe from football

Now under consideration in the Maryland General Assembly is a bill that would make it illegal for students younger than high school to play tackle football on public fields—those owned or operated by the state or another governmental unit—the Baltimore Sun reports.

The Sun says the bill was filed by state Sen William C Smith Jr, of Montgomery County, and would still allow eighth graders and younger students to play the game on private property, but private leagues wouldn’t be able to rent public fields to play.

It was reportedly written with the help of Madieu Williams, a former football player from the University of Maryland and the Cincinnati Bengals. The fields on which younger students could play other contact sports, such as lacrosse and soccer, would also be restricted.

“This is about a vulnerable population and developing brains,” Dr Terri Hill, a surgeon serving in the House of Delegates, was quoted as saying. Dr Hill presented the idea to Mr Smith, who is a lawyer. “It’s a public health issue. … Little kids don’t know what to look for,” she added, referring to the documented proof that younger children often can’t recognize the signs and symptoms of brain injuries, including concussions or sub-concussive blows that accumulate over the years of playing the sports.

Mr Smith also has a hearing for another contact sports-related bill on February 28 before the Senate’s Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs committee. SB 840 (HB 552) would require the state’s education department to provide actual education for, not just awareness to, coaches, school personnel, students, and parents or guardians about concussions and head injuries. It would also require an individual who has completed concussion risk and management training or who is a licensed health care provider to be responsible for on-site management of all concussions and head injuries during each practice and game.

Voxitatis has frequently noted changes to football tackling and contact practice rules and to soccer, where some states and leagues don’t allow children under 11 to advance the ball with headers, in response to a growing body of research that traumatic brain injuries, including concussions, have degenerative effects on people’s lives. Cognitive function becomes impaired, and young brains, which are still developing, are the most vulnerable.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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