Originally written February 09, 2013 on The Other Paper:
The discussions over the increasing number of football head injuries are sprouting up everywhere from Pop Warner fields, high school gyms, the NFL Commissioner's office and all the way up the the White House. Suggestions on how to stem the tide of serious, long-lasting health concerns have included everything from upgrading equipment, limiting what constitutes a legal tackle and/or fining and suspending players for flagrant hits. Now one New York politician wants to take it one step further and has quietly introduced legislation to prohibit children younger than 11 from playing organized tackle football anywhere in the state, according to The New York Daily News. "I want to protect the children," said Bronx Assemblyman Michael Benedetto. "I want them to get an appreciation of the game but I also don't want them to come out of this wonderful sport in a damaged condition." Benedetto's push to ban the sport for children is the first such proposal in the nation. President Obama recently publicized the debate over kids playing football when he said he would think twice about allowing a son, if he had one, to play football. And a newly-released book by Dr. Robert Cantu, a Boston neurosurgeon, urged kids under 14 to avoid the sport altogether. Benedetto agrees with the doctor's assertion that big hits on little children could be hazardous to their health in the future. "I think the evidence is now out there that kind of warrants another look at youth activities," he said Friday. Youth football officials have debunked Benedetto's bill as an overreaction to a few high-profile incidents involving college and pro players. "This is absolutely the first we have heard of any state doing something like this," said John Button, executive director of Pop Warner Football. "Frankly, it is disturbing." More than 250,000 children — some as young as 5 — play tackle football in Pop Warner leagues across the country. Benedetto said it's too early to tell whether the bill will pass the Assembly this session and is still looking for a sponsor to take it to the State Senate. State Sen. Martin Golden gave the proposal little chance of success in the conservative Senate. "Somebody always wants to regulate something," he said. "And regulating 6 and 7-year-olds playing football is not the place to do it." Still. Where's there's smoke, there's fire — especially with the blades of the helicopter-parent society of today fanning the flames.
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