By Ken Reed
California legislators recently introduced a bill that would ban tackle football before high school.
The bill, called the “Safe Youth Football Act,” will be considered this year by state lawmakers.
“The science is clear: head injuries sustained at a young age can harm kids for the rest of their lives,” Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego) said in a statement.
“Developing skills through flag football before high school is sound public policy from a health and safety standpoint.”
Editorials in the Los Angeles Times, San Jose Mercury News, and the San Diego Union Tribune have all supported the bill.
However, as expected, a lot of opposition to the bill has also surfaced.
A group called SaveCaliforniaFootball quickly formed when news of the bill came out. Moreover, an online petition opposing the bill collected more than 30,000 signatures in a little more than three days.
These opponents might be facing a losing battle, however.
A recent poll revealed that four out of five adults in the United States believe tackle football is not appropriate for children under age 14.
The Concussion Legacy Foundation “strongly recommends” that parents delay signing up their children to play tackle football until at least age 14. The Foundation says head impacts are more dangerous for children than they are for adults for two reasons: 1) children under the age of 14 have brains that undergo dramatic changes and maturation; and 2) the bobblehead effect; children have smaller, weaker necks and “proportionally giant, heavy heads,” a combination that leads to a whiplash effect upon impact.
Pro Football Hall of Fame Coach and Broadcaster John Madden agrees with the move away from tackle football for youth players.
“They don’t need a helmet,” says Madden.
“They can play flag football. And with flag football you can get all the techniques. Why do we have to start with a 6-year-old who was just potty trained a year ago and put a helmet on him and tackle?”
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of FansPrint
- League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.