A bill introduced by Representative Carol Sente of the 59th District has introduced a bill that would require school boards in Illinois to adopt a policy limiting tackling to once a week.
Sente says the goal of HB1205 is protect student athletes from concussions and head injuries.
“We had passed the concussion bill last year. I think it was a tremendous bill, but [concussions are] not yet prevented,” says Sente. “I think football is in its evolutionary period, where people are looking at this saying, ‘How can we continue enjoying the sport, having the fun and the athleticism of the game, but prevent the injuries?’ I think there’s compromise in there, so I want to be that person who helps find that.”
Sente says she was approached by a doctor in her district who runs a headache clinic studying brain trauma who wanted her to take on this legislation.
Jacksonville football head coach Mark Grounds says he’s against it. He points to the fact that the IHSA already has a medical advisory board that focuses on player safety, and that the bill doesn’t come from medical professionals that work with the board.
He says limiting hitting is one thing- and something he and his coaching staff tries to do anyway- but what Sente is proposing is another.
“Tackling is a skill that has to be developed, and if you’re only tackling one day a week, it makes it difficult. You can have various levels of intensity and various amounts of time in which you tackle,” says Grounds. “It would get in the way of running any sort of simulated team periods where you’re prepping for the other program that you’re going to play. It would also have a huge impact on your own offense in preparation.”
Grounds believes Illinois legislators can make better use of their time tackling bigger issues.
“The sponsor of the bill appears to be to be politically motivated for introducing it, to begin with,” he says. “I would think that with the state of the economy and the funding of schools, they’d be more worried about spending their energy on something like that.”
Sente expects to add an amendment to her bill that may change some language based on discussions with people on both sides of the issue. She plans on holding hearings in her district and in Springfield later this month.
A study last year by the American Journal of Sports Medicine found that there are an estimated 300,000 sports-related concussions annually in the United States between the ages of 15 to 24. The number-one most dangerous sport is football, followed by girls’ and women’s soccer.