Save Youth Football in California

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California Assembly members Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) and Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego) are sponsoring the “Safe Youth Football Act” which will establish a minimum age to play in organized tackle football programs in California.  Youth athletes (ages 5-14) will NOT be able to participate in any form of organized tackle football until the 9th grade. 

The impetus behind this bill is to prevent young athletes from sustaining long-term brain damage caused by repetitive tackling, hitting and blocking; however, no research has definitively linked long-term brain damage or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) to participation in youth tackle football.

Young athletes who are prevented from participating in youth tackle football programs are placed at a much greater risk for future injuries of all types, especially concussions, brain damage and CTE, as they would be prevented from years of training and instruction in proper tackling and blocking techniques that are provided at the youth level. Youth athletes are slower and smaller in weight & stature then their high school counterparts, which results in collisions and impact forces substantially less in youth tackle football then those associated with high school football.  Youth athletes are therefore less likely to experience long-term brain injuries when participating in youth tackle football while learning and executing basic tackling and blocking techniques; however, as athletes progress into high school, the increased body mass and speed of high school athletes can result in collisions and impact forces which have the potential of injury on any given play, especially when the athlete does not have the benefit of years of prior training in the safe execution of these techniques.

Additionally, under AB 2127 signed into law in 2014, high school football programs are now limited to no more then 90 minutes of full-contact practice per day, and limits the number of full-contact practices during the season to only (2) per week.  With a maximum of (3) hours per week of full-contact drills, the ability of high school coaches to teach the basic fundamentals of full-contact blocking and tackling is severely limited, especially when coaches have also been limited by the California Interscholastic Foundation (CIF) to a maximum of (18) hours per week of total practice, to include "any school or team or individual activity organized by the coach intended to maintain or improve a student-athlete’s skill proficiency in a sport. This includes skill drills, game situation drills, intrasquad scrimmages or games, weight training, chalk talks, film review, meetings outside of school time that are implicitly or explicitly required by the coach."  Three hours for game time is also factored into this rule, reducing the total weekly practice time to only (15) hours per week, simply not enough time for high school football programs to adequately teach basic blocking and tackling skills that youth athletes are traditionally taught from ages 5-14. 

Finally, the importance of organized youth football participation in the lives of hundreds of thousands of youth throughout California each year cannot be overlooked.  Many youth athletes use football as a means to escape communities overwhelmed with poverty, crime, drug abuse and minimal family structure.  The bonds built within youth football programs between players can last a lifetime and the mentoring relationship between players and coaches can ultimately assist players to rise beyond their surrounds to excel in society and life.  By denying youth athletes access to such positive influences during their most formative years of emotional and social development is more traumatic they any possible injury that may suffered on the field of play.

Please join myself and youth athletes, coaches and parents throughout California in preventing the passage of this proposal and keeping youth contact football an option for all youth athletes in our great State!



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