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N.Y. Lawmaker Seeks Ban on Tackle Football for Children Under 11

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A New York state lawmaker introduced a bill last week that aims to prohibit children under the age of 11 from playing tackle football.

The legislation from Assemblyman Michael Benedetto, a Bronx Democrat, would apply to both school sports and private leagues, such as Pop Warner.

"Any school, adult, or league or other entity whose purpose is to allow children to participate in football, who allows children ten years of age or younger to play, practice, or otherwise engage in tackle football, shall be liable for a civil penalty," the bill reads.

The legislation doesn't prevent children ages 10 or under, however, from playing any form of football that doesn't involve tackling.

"I want to protect the children," Benedetto told the New York Daily News this past Friday. "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."

Dr. Robert Cantu, author of "Concussions and Our Kids," recommends in his book that youth-athletes under the age of 14 shouldn't be playing tackle football.

In a September interview, Cantu explained that young children are "bobble-head dolls with big heads and weak necks," making them more susceptible to injury.

If a youth-athlete does sustain a concussion, the changes in the child's brain could persist even if the child is symptom-free, according to a December study from The Journal of Neuroscience. A February 2012 study from the journal Brain Injury found athletes of all ages to suffer neuropsychological deficits six months after sustaining a concussion.

Some youth-football advocates were quick to dismiss Benedetto's proposed legislation, however.

"This is absolutely the first we have heard of any state doing something like this," said John Butler, executive director of Pop Warner Football, to the Daily News. "Frankly, it is disturbing."

Last summer, Pop Warner enacted a number of rule changes to address the risk of concussions. The move was based on research that found a majority of the most severe hits for youth-football players occurred during practice time, not games.

The N.Y. bill was referred to the state legislature's Committee on Health on Feb. 6.

Photo: New York Assemblyman Michael Benedetto, D-Bronx, speaks during an Assembly debate at the Capitol in Albany, N.Y., in June, 2012. (Tim Roske/AP)

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