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Illinois football concussion bill dies in House committee

A bill proposed by State Rep. Carol Sente D-VernHills thaimed prevent youth football concussions was rejected House committee March 21.

A bill proposed by State Rep. Carol Sente, D-Vernon Hills ,that aimed to prevent youth football concussions was rejected in a House committee on March 21. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 26, 2013 6:48PM

Illinois will not be regulating high school and youth football practices.

Lawmakers in the House education committee again rejected House Bill 1205 on Thursday, March 21, effectively killing the measure until at least 2014. The bill, proposed by state Rep. Carol Sente in January, proposed limiting youth football practices to only one day of full-contact per week — defining this as “full speed, full pads, to the ground.”

Eight representatives voted against the measure, while only five supported it including Sente, a Vernon Hills Democrat. A preliminary vote on Wednesday, March 20, also rejected the bill.

Opposition, Sente said, came from representatives who either wanted to be fair and create protective legislation across all sports, or those who did not want to get involved with any further athletic regulation.

Sente told the committee she believes four hours of full-contact per week is more than enough time to teach important skills through repetition, and that many leagues throughout Illinois already limit practices.

“Let’s not pretend the game of football won’t have negative implications in enrollment or litigation if we don’t do something,” Sente, after the meeting, said she told the committee. “And let’s not pretend parents, athletes, coaches and doctors are not asking us for this change, because they are.”

Sente also said she’s met many coaches with no objections to the proposal.

“Of course the bill is not for these good coaches,” she said. “It is for overzealous, less well-trained coaches that need some hitting limits and additional training.”

As modern research on the brain progresses, Sente said her legislation will eventually get passed in some form and without opposition.

In the meantime, Sente said she was invited to join other legislators in meeting with the Illinois High School Association in mid-April.

“I will not drop the issue,” Sente said on Wednesday, after the first vote.

Throughout the two days, Sente gathered 10 cosponsors — which she said is good progress for a small hearing.

Sente proposed the bill earlier this year after a constituent Lawrence Robbins, a neurologist, compiled research and approached her with his results. By the time a life-long football player graduates high school, Robbins said he would have experienced 8,000 blows to the head – most of which occurred at practice.

The topic was explored publicly at a Feb. 25 forum at Vernon Hills High School, which included a panel of doctors and youth sports leaders.

Uncertain at first, Sente said she decided to push the bill full force after gathering feedback from multiple groups.

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