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Ex-Bear Kurt Becker pushes head trauma bill

Updated: July 2, 2011 12:20AM

SPRINGFIELD — Just days after the suicide of ex-teammate Dave Duerson, former Bears offensive lineman Kurt Becker urged a House panel Wednesday to back legislation designed to increase awareness of head trauma and provide concussion safeguards for high school student athletes.

Becker cited the death of his teammate from the 1985 Super Bowl champions and the possibility repeated head trauma might have contributed to his suicide as reason for the Legislature to embrace the concussion-awareness push.

“The end result is that concussions are a very serious matter in contact sports,” Becker told the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee.

The bill, sponsored by House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego), unanimously passed the panel and is now positioned for a full House vote.

Cross’ legislation would require all school boards to adhere to Illinois High School Association concussion guidelines that affect all high school-sponsored sports. Under those guidelines, an in-game referee has the primary responsibility of pulling a student from the game if he is experiencing concussion symptoms.

“The more the people understand about it and have an awareness about it, the better,” said Cross, who intends to broaden his bill also to cover park district youth sports leagues.

Becker’s testimony came after Duerson notified his family that he wanted his brain donated for trauma research then killed himself Friday.

“To hear that he committed suicide was shocking” said Becker, who said he saw Duerson twice in the past year, including at the 1985 Bears reunion in November.

Elsewhere at the Capitol, a bi-partisan group of legislators condemned $15 million in cuts Gov. Quinn has hinted he will make to alcohol and drug prevention services during this fiscal year. A resolution pushed by Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago) aims to pressure the governor to reconsider the cuts.

She said the spending reductions would eliminate 80 percent of the funding for 69,000 treatment clients in the state. More than 5,000 workers, who provide detox, intake and outpatient services, could be laid off if the cuts, slated to begin March 15, go into effect.

“This actually is more like taking a battle ax and a hatchet job to some very, very serious services that we provide,” said Feigenholtz, chairwoman of the House Appropriations-Human Services Committee.

Quinn told reporters in Chicago that his office is considering the cuts, although he would not speculate on the scope of them.

“Some of them may have economies that we have to make,” he said. “This is hard and difficult. We have to balance things. I don’t want to harm one area of important life in Illinois, like human services, but at the same time I have got to maintain education and public safety.”

The Department of Human Service had signaled its intention to notify providers Tuesday of how much money they would lose. But agency spokeswoman Marielle Sainvilus said the department and Quinn’s budget office are still finalizing the cuts and could notify providers later in the week.

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