Democrats in Maryland are working to ban middle school-aged and younger children, from playing contact sports such as football on public property.
State Democrats insist that something needs to be done to protect “vulnerable” children who are still in the developmental stages of their lives.
“I love football. I watched through this season and last season, and even through all of the other tumult of the NFL,” State Senator William C. Smith, Jr., told the Baltimore Sun. “I think football’s here to stay, but if we can do small things to ensure that people are fully prepared to engage in football, which is inherently a dangerous sport, I think that’s a worthy cause.”
Consequently, Sen. Smith (D, Tacoma Park) introduced a bill to ban rough and tumble sports like football and even aspects of soccer, Lacrosse, and hockey, from public sports facilities.
A medical doctor by training, Smith assured the media that he was not trying to ban kids from playing sports.
“I assure you that football will still be played elsewhere, but its a recognition from the state and the counties that we don’t want to facilitate an activity that we know is detrimental to the development of children,” Smith said.
Another supporter of the bill, Maryland Delegate Terri Hill (D, Baltimore) insisted that the ban was a “public health” issue.
“This is about a vulnerable population and developing brains. It’s a public health issue,” Hill said.
The bill would not ban full-contact sports in private leagues, the paper reported. However, youth leagues that do feature full-contact would not be allowed to play in state, county, or city-owned facilities or on public-owned fields.
Williams also said that his ban on sports was made “as a parent,” and not just a lawmaker.
“I had to look at it not only as a former football player but as a parent. Knowing the research coming out on traumatic brain injuries forced me to look at it from a different perspective,” he said.
Democrat House leader Del. Dereck Davis (D, Bowie) agreed that maybe it was time to ban rough sports.
“It’s probably a good idea. With all those hits, you don’t want to get brains scrambled at a young age,” Davis said on Tuesday.
Del. Hill added that she hoped the bill would help tackle children’s health issues surrounding any developmental problems caused by contact sports. She says kids often fail to report or even recognize that they have sustained head injuries.
Former NFL player and University of Maryland graduate Madieu Williams has also been working on the bill.
The former Cincinnati Bengals player has been an activist for player safety for several years. In fact, in 2009 he donated $2 million to the University of Maryland to create the Madieu Williams Center for Global Health Initiatives to study concussions and other sports-related injuries.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.