Calif. fourth state to consider minimum age for tackle football

February 9, 2018 / Football
A pair of California lawmakers have introduced a bill that would set a minimum age for kids to participate in tackle football.

California is the fourth state this year to consider such legislation, joining Maryland, Illinois and New York. California’s proposal doesn’t suggest a specific age, but other states have set the minimum at 12 years old.

Photo: Kevin Hoffman

The push to slowly introduce children to football is a reaction to growing concerns over head injuries. A number of studies concluded that blows to the head can be especially damaging to children, whose brains are still developing.

“The science is clear — head injuries sustained at a young age can harm kids for the rest of their lives,” said assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, who co-authored the bill with Kevin McCarty. “Developing skills through flag football before high school is sound public policy from a healthy and safety standpoint.”

“The Super Bowl may be over, but the risk of brain injury to kids who play tackle football remains,” McCarty said. “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.”

Participation in high school football has declined over the last decade, and only Texas has more kids than California who are playing the sport. Organizations like USA Football are trying to combat the decline by phasing kids into full-contact football, first introducing them to flag and 9-on-9 football before advancing to “rookie tackle.” The structure is intended to help teach kids the fundamentals and techniques necessary to correctly and safely play the game.

While four states are considering minimum ages for tackle football, none have passed a bill.

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