New York City is considering legislation to mandate that a doctor to be present at all youth tackle football games, and a doctor or certified athletic trainer at every full-contact practice. The goal is to ensure that all youth head injuries receive proper medical attention.
"It's too common that kids are taught that getting your bell rung is OK and you need to play through it," said city councilmember Corey Johnson, a sponsor of the bill. "Repeated concussions can cause lifelong health injuries especially when the brain does not have time to heal."
New York City’s Public School Athletic League, which oversees all public school sports, already requires a doctor to be present for all high school football games (though not for practices). Though there are no tackle football programs for kids younger than high school, the existing legislation does not extend to private schools or non-school leagues such as community groups.
The sponsors of the new legislation aim to fill that gap with this bill. A separate but related piece of legislation, if it passes, will create a youth-safety task force to track sports-related injuries among children and teens in the city, according to the Wall Street Journal. The new law would apply to all youth sporting groups that require a permit from the Department of Parks and Recreation. (In other words, informal backyard practices would be exempt).
While there are few people who stand opposed to the bill on principle, some worry about the costs, particularly on lower income leagues. Having a physician present could cost upwards of $100 per game, which is out of reach of many youth sporting groups that cater to economically disadvantaged or at-risk kids.
"We have concern that bill would have chilling impact on programs in poorer neighborhoods," first deputy Parks Department commissioner Liam Kavanagh told New York Magazine.
Similarly, the office of Mayor Bill de Blasio says it supports the goals of the bill, but is concerned that the legislation could cause economic hardship for some youth sporting groups.