USA Football Opposes Tackle Football Ban in Massachusetts

Speaking for many in the team sports industry worried about the future of its number one sport, USA Football CEO Scott Hallenbeck testified late last month to the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Public Health against HB 2007, a bill that would ban tackle football leagues for players in seventh grade and under.

Hallenbeck testified that “parents do not want their government telling them when their kids can play football. We hear this from them often.”

Instead, Hallenbeck told the lawmakers, “they want to make informed decisions for themselves. Parents need information and options in order to determine what is best for their child.”

The bill, dubbed “An Act for No Organized Head Impacts to Schoolchildren,” was filed in January. It would enact financial penalties to leagues or schools that participate in tackle football for players seventh grade or under. It would not restrict other levels of game play, including flag football.

The first infraction would receive a fine up to $2000 and repeat offenses would be penalized up to $5000, and the bill includes a fine up to $10,000 “if the violation directly results in serious physical harm to any participant or participants.”

In explaining the rationale for it, Rep. Paul A. Schmid III, one of two legislators who filed the bill, told a local newspaper that 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. “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.

In addition to Hallenbeck, according to a report in USA Today, Dr. Julian Bailes, the Director of Neurosurgery and Co-Director of NorthShore University Health System Neurological Institute, testified as well.

“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.

Massachusetts has seen a 13 percent drop in boys’ 11-player participation  in recent years.