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Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City)

 

SALT LAKE CITY -

It was one thing when busybody lawmakers removed seesaws from the school playground and told mothers what they could pack in their kids' school lunch. And we might let it slide that in some parts of the country legislators passed a state law that children must brush their teeth at school.

But now they've gone too far: They're attempting to ban kids from playing football.

It's too dangerous - like seesaws and peanut butter sandwiches.

Banning football? Didn't they try that about a hundred years ago under Roosevelt - the first Roosevelt? Like thin ties and cuffed pants, everything comes back in style - even legislation.

In Illinois, Democratic representative Carol Sente recently proposed a law that would prevent kids under the age of 12 from playing football. It's called the Duerson Act, named after the former Chicago Bears star Dave Duerson, who suffered from brain trauma and committed suicide at the age of 50.

The justification of the Duerson Act, of course, is that it will prevent possible brain damage from the repeated blows of football.

There is certainly cause for concern about the risks of football, but do we really need lawmakers to act like our mothers or overgrown hall monitors? People can make their own decisions, particularly when it comes to the well-being of their children, and, in fact, they already are. Participation in football is falling drastically.

According to a report by the National Federation of High School Associations, participation in high school football dropped by nearly 26,000 participants during the 2016-17 school year, despite the addition of 61 new schools to the sport. Per the NFHS, participation in football has declined 3.5 percent for five years. Little league football has reported a similar decline.

Almost all observers believe it is a direct result of the considerable publicity surrounding brain damage and football - the studies, the anecdotal evidence, books and articles, the early retirement of a number of professional players, the "Concussion" movie, lawsuits, congressional hearings, the changing rules of the game to promote safety, the health struggles of former players, the suicides, the warnings from former players.

Brett Favre, Troy Aikman, Bart Scott, Terry Bradshaw, Adrian Peterson, Kurt Warner, Mike Ditka and Drew Brees, among others, have said they don't want their children or grandchildren to play the game.

Dr. Bennet Omalu, whose discovery of brain damage in football players was told in the movie "Concussion," once said that it was child abuse to let kids under the age of 18 play the game.

So, Americans have been warned. They have been thoroughly educated about the risks of football; now let them make their own decisions about the game. Many have already chosen to put their kids in other sports, and somehow they managed to do this without a mandate from government nannies.

If lawmakers intervene and actually make a law banning youth football, where will they draw the line? Should soccer headers be illegal (U.S. Soccer is already banning or limiting this for youth)? What about body checks in hockey? Will they make intentional fouls on the basketball court and beaning on the baseball diamond criminal offenses?

How about banning cycling? According to the Association of Neurological Surgeons, that sport has almost twice as many brain injuries as football, with 85,389 emergency room visits for cycling compared to 46,948 for football in 2009. Then there's baseball and softball, which are a close third in brain injuries behind cycling and football. Basketball is fourth. Then water sports, recreation vehicles, soccer, skateboarding.

Should there be laws banning those sports, too?

And don't even get started about ultimate fighting and boxing? How have those sports survived in the current American Nanny State? Their sole objective is to punch an opponent in the head. If someone is going to regulate football, what about the fighting sports?

There are some people who think that high chairs should be banned (too dangerous, you know). How long will it be before legislators pass a law that requires anyone on a bike to wear a helmet?

Once legislators go down this road, there's no end in sight.

Email: drob@deseretnews.com

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