Head injuries in football are a serious issue, one that needs to be addressed on all levels.
But by introducing House Bill 1205, state Rep. Carol Sente (D – Lincolnshire) is going too far. She has the right motivation in proposing legislation that would limit high school football teams to one day of contact drills per week, but the General Assembly would be overstepping its bounds by regulating practice.
This is not a political issue. This is an issue for parents, football coaches, high school administrators and the Illinois High School Association to address.
The IHSA has its own Legislative Commission, made up of 35 administrators from across the state, which meets yearly for specifically this purpose, updating the rules of practice and play for IHSA sports. That group then holds a town meeting, required viewing for at least one administrator at each IHSA-member school, before the rules are voted on and enacted.
Taking control of the process out of that group’s hands doesn’t make sense, especially with the stack of meaningful legislation still unresolved in the state.
Sente did the appropriate thing by hearing out the public at a pair of meetings this week. But those meetings brought several items to light. Neurologist Dr. Larry Robbins estimated that a football player who starts at age 7 will take 4,000 hits to the head by age 18, an alarming number.
But when coaches in the crowd were asked how many held more than one contact practice a week, none raised his hand. Niles North athletic director Karl Costello then stated that his school has had 42 concussions. Fifteen were in football (four varsity) with nine in competitive cheer.
It is clear that the solution is unclear. When it is, we have every reason to believe that local coaches and the IHSA will act.