“California’s Controversial Proposal: Banning Tackle Football for Kids Under 12”

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California Considers Banning Tackle Football for Kids Under 12

Lawmakers in California are set to debate a bill that could outlaw tackle football for children under the age of 12. The proposed ban aims to protect kids from potential brain damage and other medical issues associated with the sport. However, critics argue that it would deprive youths of a valuable source of physical activity.

The Bill’s Progress and Previous Attempts

The bill, introduced by Democratic Assembly member Kevin McCarty, is scheduled for its first public hearing before a legislative committee. It still has a long way to go before becoming law, as it must clear the state Assembly by the end of January. Similar attempts to ban tackle football for kids have failed in California, as well as in New York and Illinois.

Kids tackling

Young boys playing American Football during the half time break during the New York Giants V Indianapolis Colts, NFL American Football Pre Season match at MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ, USA. 18th December 2013.  (Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

Current Regulations and Safety Measures

California already has regulations in place to protect young football players. Full-contact practices for high school and youth teams are banned during the offseason, and limited to two practices per week during the preseason and regular season. These measures aim to minimize unnecessary physical contact and ensure safety. In addition, a law implemented in 2021 requires youth football officials to undergo concussion and head injury education.

Kids with orange helmets

Pop Warner football players look on before an NFL pre-season football game between the San Francisco 49ers and the San Diego Chargers Friday, Sept. 4, 2009 in San Diego. The California Legislature is considering a bill that would ban tackle football for children under 12.  (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)

The Health Risks of Tackle Football

Chris Nowinski, CEO of the Concussion Legacy Foundation and a former Harvard football player and WWE professional wrestler, has highlighted the potential dangers of tackle football. Research has shown that repeated blows to the head can lead to brain damage, including chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which can cause the death of nerve cells in the brain. The risk of these injuries increases the longer an individual plays the sport.

“I don’t have a problem with NFL players, who are adults and understand the risk and are compensated, risking CTE,” Nowinski said. “I can’t imagine a world in which we have children, who don’t understand the risk, doing this for fun (and) taking the same risk with their brain.”

California’s Declining Football Participation

The number of high school students participating in tackle football in California has been decreasing. From 2015 to 2022, participation dropped by over 18%. However, there was a slight increase of 5% in 2023, with a total of 89,178 players. These statistics indicate a changing landscape for youth football in the state.

Kids running in blue jerseys

Young boys playing American Football during the half time break during the New York Giants V Indianapolis Colts, NFL American Football Pre Season match at MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ, USA. 18th December 2013. Photo Tim Clayton  (Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

The Final Verdict

While California considers the potential ban on tackle football for kids under 12, the debate between safety concerns and the importance of physical activity continues. The bill’s fate remains uncertain, as previous attempts to implement such bans have not been successful.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.