Sacramento – California may soon become the first state to set a minimum age requirement for contact sports by banning youth participation below the high school level.
The Safe Youth Football Act introduced by two California State Assemblymembers last week, Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego) and Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), would restrict organized tackle football for youth previous to entering high school as freshmen.
Studies continue to show the impact Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) has had on some of the most celebrated figures in professional football. The condition and other neurological impairments are caused by repetitive impacts to the head normally sustained when playing tackle football over time.
Research has also proven children who play contact sports during critical brain development years are at even greater risk for neurological impairments and CTE later in life.
“The research is clear, when children participate in high-impact, high-contact sports, there is a 100 percent risk of exposure to brain damage,” said Dr. Bennet Omalu, author of the award-winning book on CTE titled Concussion. “Once you know the risk involved in something, what’s the first thing you do? Protect children from it.”
McCarthy stressed to those who believe tackle football is the only pathway to playing professionally that there is a long list of professional football players who grew up playing noncontact youth football and enjoyed successful and acclaimed careers in the sport.
McCarthy further advised, “The Golden State’s children need to know that no touchdown or interception is worth long-term damage to their brains caused by tackle football.” A majority of parents across California and the nation concur.
“The science is clear—head injuries sustained at a young age can harm kids for the rest of their lives,” Fletcher added to McCarthy’s comments. “Developing skills through flag football before high school is sound public policy from a health and safety standpoint.”
The Safe Youth Football Act is scheduled for legislative consideration in this spring. Similar legislation has also been proposed in Illinois, Maryland and New York.