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California lawmakers are set to discuss a proposal to prohibit tackle football for children under 12, a measure aimed at preventing brain injuries.

The bill, if enacted, wouldn’t take effect until 2026, with proposed amendments suggesting a gradual implementation through 2029.

Youth Football Tackling

Chris Nowinski, CEO of the Concussion Legacy Foundation and a former football player and wrestler, supports the bill, citing research that tackle football can lead to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a condition involving the death of brain nerve cells. Nowinski argues that while NFL players are aware of and compensated for these risks, children should not be exposed to such dangers for recreational purposes.

No state has yet banned tackle football for children, though similar attempts have been made in California, New York, and Illinois. California already has laws restricting full-contact practices in high school and youth football teams and mandating concussion education for youth football officials, introduced in 2021.

Steve Famiano, former youth football coach and leader of Save Youth Football California, believes more time is needed to assess the effectiveness of the 2021 law. Famiano argues that flag football, which he views as a fundamentally different sport, doesn’t accommodate all children, particularly those who may not fit the lean and fast archetype.

This comes as tackle football at the high school level has seen a decline in California, with participation dropping over 18% from 2015 to 2022. However, there was a slight increase in 2023.


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