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posted: 2/3/2013 5:00 AM

Editorial: Tackling bill a way to continue the debate

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The Daily Herald Editorial Board

What will be the most remembered play of today's Super Bowl? A miraculous catch? An amazing run? A kickoff return for a touchdown? Or a bruising hit on an unsuspecting Raven or 49er?

Football fans would cheer for any one of those. They are all part of the game; part of why the Super Bowl is such a cultural phenomenon, the biggest day of the year in sports.

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For those kids watching at home who suit up every fall, they dream of one day being on that stage. Though most don't get to that level, they still practice and play each week, absorbing hit after hit as the game demands.

And that's what concerns state Rep. Carol Sente, a Vernon Hills Democrat, who has introduced a bill in Springfield to limit tackling in practice to one day a week for those high-school age and younger. She was spurred to introduce the legislation after talking to a Northbrook doctor who runs a headache clinic.

"A child who plays football from age 7 to 18 will typically sustain 6,000 to 8,000 blows to the head during games and practices over the years," Dr. Larry Robbins told the Daily Herald's Doug T. Graham in an article Friday. "These can add up over time, even without symptoms, causing permanent brain injury."

Those are scary statistics. Even more can be found in a 2012 University of Michigan study which used helmet sensors to measure impact on high school football players. The study reports that the average high school player takes roughly 650 impacts, with a maximum of more than 2,000, per football season.

So, it's obvious why there should be a discussion on the effects of tackling on younger football players. But we also take note of Stevenson High School head football coach Bill McNamara who said young players need practice on how to tackle safely.

"If you do not practice proper tackling technique, you are actually placing a player at a greater risk of receiving a head injury during a contest," McNamara said.

For parents, more information as to the dangers of the sport and the advances in equipment and style of play that help to mitigate those dangers is key in making the right decisions for their children. Comments last week by President Obama that he would "think long and hard" about letting his sons -- if he had any -- play helped to spur the debate further during the ramp up to the Super Bowl.

The new rules and focus regarding concussions and how soon a player can return to play have been good steps in making the sport safer. We'd like to see Sente's bill spark that conversation even further in Illinois so informed decisions can be made on the field and off.

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