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Should Massachusetts Ban Tackle Football For Children?

Map of Ashland MA

A National Pastime In Question

Rep. Jack Lewis is asking 7th Middlesex District of Massachusetts constituents whether or not tackle football should be banned for elementary and middle school children. The question comes against the backdrop of a hotly contested bill, presented by Representatives Paul Schmid and Bradley Jones, that would prohibit children below the seventh grade from playing tackle football. Opponents of the bill argue that the sport is now safer than it’s ever been. Per the Eagle Tribune, “Youth football leagues are weighing other steps to improve safety, he added, such as limiting contact in practice and eliminating kickoffs at younger age levels.” Opponents also argue that it should be up to parents to make such decisions, though proponents of the bill hold up the mounting collection of evidence linking youth tackle football with depression, anxiety, head trauma, and other problems.

Disclaimer: These results are not statistically significant due to the selective ability to respond and share. However, the quantity of responses and comments provide insight into overall sentiment, top concerns, and interest in this proposal.

A Close Vote

195 total responses were recorded through Involved. 80 responded yes (41.03%) while 94 answered no (48.21%).

Rep Lewis Poll Results

Additionally, one of the most striking things about these results is that 21 responded that they are unsure or do not have enough information, amounting to 10.77% of the total votes. This is an unusually high percentage of undecided voters. This indicates an issue that voters have not been adequately informed about, and it is possible this conclusion can be applied to the broader conversation surrounding this issue.

Fierce Division

Based on the comments recorded by Involved, it is apparent that many voters do not feel adequately informed about this issue.

One wrote, “Thank you for taking up this important issue. I would like the opportunity to learn more before weighing in on the issue. Competitive sports can bring out the best in our youth, but excellence should not come at the risk of injury. Third-party statistics might be useful in the decision-making process.”

Another said, “So not sure, I remember my son playing and it was a lot of falling down more than tackling. Guess I'd like to see emergency room stats regarding this issue.”

Voters who have formulated an opinion tended to stick strongly to that opinion.

Proponents frequently cited the scientific evidence supporting the bill.

“No one who understands the science of concussions would ever permit children to play contact sports,” one respondent said.

Opponents tended to focus on two arguments: government overreach and parental autonomy.

“We must stop mandates. A free society needs to be able to make choices. More government intervention is not always the solution,” one opponent of the bill responded.

“This is a personal/family decision[, not] something that needs to be legislated.”

Cultural Consequences

The majority of respondents opposed this bill, though it’s clear that opinions are divided and many voters feel they are not yet adequately informed on this issue. It’s a complicated and nuanced question that raises a number of other questions: government overreach, parental autonomy and child safety, to name a few.

Ultimately, this is a debate that’s likely closer to its inception than its conclusion. Nationally, the conversation has just started to take hold in recent years as more NFL players suffer from concussions and are found to have CTE after death. This is a question with significant cultural ramifications, as America has a deep and undying connection to the sport of football. Still, the body of evidence that tackle football is linked with head trauma and other health risks––especially at the youth level––is growing. Readers interested in digging deeper into this research can view this report by the Association of American Universities, or this study by the Radiological Society of North America and republished by ScienceDaily. For the safety and preservation of children and football players of all ages––as well as America’s favorite sport––this is a worthwhile and important discourse.

Caleb McDermott