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Legislator proposes youth ban on tackle football, 'heading' soccer ball

ALBANY -- Asm. Michael Benedetto (D - Bronx) revived discussion of his bill to ban tackling in youth football on Thursday. He also proposed an additional bill to ban youth from using their head in soccer.

We don't want our young kids who are more vulnerable to what can be permanent head injury. We don't want them exposed to that, said Benedetto.

Last year he introduced a bill to ban tackle football for youth younger than 10-years-old, but he is now proposing an amendment that would ban it for youth younger than 14.

I was persuaded to lower the age Im bringing the age back up to 14 with the amendment. If we truly want to protect our children there's no reason to play around here, said Benedetto.

Some doctors say brains dont develop more protection until around age 13 and their neck muscles are too weak to handle the hits on a football field.

That bobble head doll affect means that not a very hard blow to a youngsters head will cause a much greater effect to the brain than that same blow would to an adult's head, said Dr. Robert Cantu with the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy.

Some coaches believe with proper training youth can safely play football.

I think it's a little silly. Having been in youth football for all these years I can tell you at the younger ages they don't generate enough force. We call them pillow fighters because they just bump into each other and they fall down, said Scott McCart, a coach of 15 years with Junior Plainsmen Football. By the time 3rd grade rolls around they're ready to make the move to tackle football and its taught properly and safely and the kids enjoy it.

Carol OMalleys son, Ryan, started playing football in The Bronx when he was 7-years-old. He eventually earned a college scholarship, but never had the chance to play.

He was a fearless player. He wanted to be in every play and he just loved it, said OMalley. In March of 2004 he had a breakdown in college and he's been in and out of hospitals with many different diagnosis and many different medications.

Ryan was eventually diagnosed with a brain inhibition, possibly linked to his time on the football field, and doctors finally managed his medication so he could start barber school just this week.

There's really nothing you can do when the damage is done to the brain, said OMalley. For nine years we didn't know if he was ever going to be able to do anything on his own again.

OMalley joined Benedetto at a news conference announcing the renewed effort in the upcoming legislative session.

I just hope this bill is passed and more children are protected, said OMalley. I didn't have that and I think it's time for more children to get that protection.