By Ashley Hupfl
ALBANY - A state lawmaker pressing for a ban on youth tackle football said Thursday he will change his playbook and seek an even stricter law.
Assemblyman Michael Benedetto, D-Bronx, has been blocked in his effort to prohibit tackle football for youth under age 11. On Thursday, he said he will introduce new legislation to put the ban at under age 14, saying science shows that the health risks are increasing.
The Legislature has refused to tackle the measure, and Benedetto has yet to win a Senate sponsor. Still, he said his goal is to highlight the dangers of youth football, which can lead to concussions and lifelong injuries.
"This is not something I do idly. I know how important football is in the state of New York and throughout our nation," Benedetto said. "If we truly want to protect our children, there's no reason to play around. All the recent evidence is showing that young kids playing tackle football at a young ages, their bodies are just not up to it as far as protection of the brain and all of this can lead to lasting injuries."
Benedetto first introduced the ban in February, seeking to limit tackle football to those older than 11. Now he said it should be those older than 14.
Robert Cantu, co-director at the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University, applauded Benedetto's stance at a news conference in Albany. He said children younger than 14 could simply play flag football.
"A study at BU is suggesting that youngsters that start at a very early age may be at greater risk for mood, cognitive, and behavioral issues later on as compared to those who started football at a later age," Cantu said.
Supporters of youth football have sacked Benedetto's bill. Youth as young as 5 years old can play organized tackle football, and it's supervised by coaches without keeping score.
The state this year enacted a concussion law that requires a doctor's note to play again. In Pop Warner games, the amount of contact time is restricted.
Pop Warner and other youth sports organizations last month announced a National Sports Concussion Coalition to limit injuries.
"Sports have the power to change the lives of millions of young people in this country by encouraging a physically active lifestyle and by teaching lifelong lessons. We want to make sure no child loses that opportunity due to fear of injury," said Jon Butler, executive director of Pop Warner Little Scholars, in a news release Oct. 7.