California State Assemblymember Proposes Bill to Limit Age for Tackle Football

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A California assemblymember has recently introduced legislation that would require a minimum age for children in the state to play tackle football. 

The bill from assemblymember Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) would make it so that a child must be at least 12 years old to play tackle football, the Elk Grove Citizen of Galt, Calif., reported Tuesday

In a news release from February, the assemblyman claimed his bill, AB 734, would protect young athletes from being subjected to brain injury and trauma associated with playing tackle football.

“Growing research is clear about the links between youth tackle football and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE),” he wrote in the Feb. 17 release. “Additionally, A Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study reports youth tackle football athletes ages 6-14 sustain 15 times more head impacts than flag football during a practice or game, and that head impacts increase the risk for concussion and other serious head injuries. It also reports that youth tackle football athletes experience about 378 head impacts per athlete during the season while flag football athletes experience about eight.”

Most local football organizations start as young as six years old with the “Mighty Mite” level of play. Just about all Elk Grove-area high school football program has a youth program attached to it. 

Ron White with the California Youth Football Alliance is asking legislators to vote down this bill.

“This is one of the most misguided, out of touch pieces of legislation that we’ve seen,” White told Vicki Gonzalez of Capital Public Radio on March 13. “This is what appears to be a crusade by a single man to try to put an end to an amazing sport for young athletes…if you follow the science (McCarty’s claims) just don’t add up. At its best it’s anecdotal and it becomes (McCarty’s) crusade.”

McCarty is getting some reinforcements to come alongside him in pushing this bill through the California Assembly, the Elk Grove Citizen reported. 

“As a neuroscientist and former football player at Harvard, I fully endorse AB 734,” co-founder and CEO of the Concussion Legacy Foundation Chris Nowinski said. “Now that the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention both recognize that head impacts in tackle football can cause the brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), it’s time to protect our young children from a harm they cannot understand. To protect them, we don’t let children smoke, drink, or use indoor tanning beds. Why would we let eight-year-olds participate in an activity that we now know can give them a brain disease?”

Pro Football Hall of Famer Warren Sapp, who played defensive tackle for Tampa Bay much of his career is also on board.

"I support AB 734,” Sapp said. ” Thank you, California for taking this big step in saving our future: the kids. Let's delay the banging of heads. You've got plenty of time after you get to high school.”

White told Gonzalez if this bill does pass the State Legislature, there would be a drop off in participation in high school football.

“We have an assembly member who wants to take an activity away from kids who many come from an under-served community and need a way out, need an activity in their life that is positive, need mentorship,” he said.

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