Sports
11:45 am
Wed February 6, 2013

Why Texas Might Limit Full-Contact Football Practice

With all  the talk of football player safety at the professional level, it's not surprising that some Texas lawmakers are talking about requiring more precautions for younger athletes.

Texas currently allows 30 days of full-contact practice for high school and middle school athletes, but this could soon change.

Texas State Rep. Eddie Lucio III has filed House Bill 887 — a bill that would limit high school and middle school football programs to one full-contact practice per week. Rep. Lucio also filed HB 68, which would establish a series of neurocognitive assessments for student athletes suffering from a concussion.

"Texas has been and will continue to be a football state, but we must protect our young athletes," Lucio said in a statement. "This legislation is aimed at preventing the harm caused by undiagnosed concussions. The cumulative effect of subconcussive hits can lead to severe brain damage because the lack of diagnosis."

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) — a disease caused by repeated hits to the head — has become the focal point of the football safety debate. Former football player Junior Seau, who took his life last May, was revealed last month to have suffered from CTE. And there are over 4,000 plaintiffs in the ongoing concussion litigation against the National Football League. Many of the plaintiffs are also suffering from the disease.

CTE can cause depression, dementia, and other neurodegenerative symptoms later in life.

While this is going on, the NFL is making the effort to change football culture by enacting rule changes and by spreading player safety awareness, even going as so far to take out commercials during the Super Bowl and increasing advertising aimed at youth safety.

But, of course, the governing body that enforces player safety at the professional level, does not enforce it at other levels.

“The bill is aimed at affording our student-athletes the very same safety measures being followed at the college and professional level,” Lucio said. “While we have installed measures to react to sports concussions, we have yet to enact preventative measures like this. The mental health of our young people is too important for us not to be proactive in their protection.”

The New York Times reports 19 states have so far banned off-season full contact practices. So far this doesn’t include Texas.