California is closing in on becoming the first state to ban football for children under the age of 12

The Watts Bears youth football team (in white) pursues a member of the Southern California Falcons. Players are 7 to 9 years old.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

California is closing in on becoming the first state to ban football for children under the age of 12

Homepage News, California Politics

Steve Henson

January 10, 2024

The bill is notable for its brevity. Sure, the single sentence is a bit disjointed, but California Assembly B


734 leaves no doubt about his directive:

“On and after January 1, 2026, a youth sports organization operating a tackle football program or a youth tackle football league shall not permit any person under the age of 12 to be a youth tackle football participant through the organization or league.”

An American rite of passage since shortly after World War II, donning a helmet and shoulder pads and learning to block and tackle would be banned until adolescence begins. The proposed legislation is prompted by growing concerns about concussions and other brain trauma.

AB 734 was introduced last year by state Assemblyman Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), not to be confused with former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield), and cleared its first hurdle Wednesday when a legislative committee voted 5-2 in favor of the measure . already discussed by the 80-member General Assembly next week.

The bill would also have to pass the 50-member Senate before reaching the governor’s desk. Gavin Newsom.

Research has shown that tackle football causes brain damage, and the risk increases the longer people play the sport. Repeated concussions can cause chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which has been documented by brain studies of numerous deceased football players. The disease can cause memory loss, confusion, judgment, aggression and dementia. The disease can cause memory loss, confusion, judgment, aggression and dementia.

How CTE is changing everything about football

A 2016 study found that one season of tackle football can impact the brains of players as young as 8 years old. Researchers concluded that even hits that did not result in a diagnosed concussion had adverse consequences.

No state has banned tackle football for children, but there have been attempts to do so. Similar bills previously introduced in California, New York, Illinois, Massachusetts and Maryland failed to pass.

The proposed law follows the California Youth Football Act of 2021, which requires football coaches to undergo concussion and head injury education, and for parents


young people approach football participants to receive similar information. The law also requires young people to tackle football competitions


help detect sports injuries in young people.

Youth AB 734 would allow under 12s to play flag football, which has grown in popularity not only among boys but also among girls. The sport was first sanctioned by the California Interscholastic Federation for girls in 2023, with 114 high school teams fielding in the CIF Southern Section alone.

Football and organizational sports in general are proven ways to keep kids out of trouble, said Assemblymember Mike Gipson (D-Gardena), chairman of the committee that voted for the bill. This bill doesn’t take away that opportunity, it just says we’re moving from tackle football to flag football and we can still have the same learning experiences.

Everything you need to know about CIF adding girls flag football as an official sport

Tackle football at the high school level has declined in California, although it is up 5% in 2023. Participation fell from a high of 103,725 players in 2015 to 84,626 players in 2022, a decline of more than 18%, according to the C







An amendment to AB 734 approved by the committee on Wednesday stipulates that implementation of the bill will occur in phases. Children under age


Playing tackle football would be banned from 2025, followed by children under 10 in 2027 and children under 12 in 2029.

“Children only have one brain and one life, and there is irreversible damage to children’s brains that is completely unnecessary,” McCarty said at the hearing.

About fifty youth football coaches, parents and players attended the hearing to voice their opposition to the bill. When members of the public who

were are

In favor of the bill were invited to testify, only one person did so.

In the communities I grew up in and currently represent, tackling football is not merely an American pastime, it is a central event that connects close-knit communities and integrates the surrounding areas, said Assemblyman Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale) , one of two committee members to vote against the bill. I trust [parents and coaches] to know what is in the best interest of their children.

Most 12-year-olds are in sixth grade, the first year they would be allowed to play tackle football under the proposed law. That would give them three years of experience before entering high school in ninth grade.

Opinion piece: 5 steps to protect footballers’ brains and keep the sport alive


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