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Assemblymember Kevin McCarty’s bill requiring a minimum age for kids to play youth tackle football heads to the Assembly Floor

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO – Assemblymember Kevin McCarty’s bill requiring a child to be at least 12 years old to play tackle football passed the Assembly Arts, Entertainment, Sports, and Tourism Committee. AB 734 will protect young athletes from being subjected to brain injury and trauma due to the repetitive head hits they sustain while playing. 

Children who play tackle football during critical years of brain development are at a greater risk for neurological impairment and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) later in life. Children's brains are especially vulnerable between the ages of 6-14 undergoing dramatic change and maturation.

Extensive and growing research documents the dangers of youth tackle football and the potential for lifelong impacts of brain trauma. A CDC study reports that youth tackle football athletes ages 6-14 sustained 15 times more head impacts than flag football athletes during a practice or game, and sustained 23 times more high-magnitude head impacts (head to head). Additionally, a Boston University CTE Center study found that the earlier children started tackle football, the earlier symptoms of cognitive, behavior, and mood issues began. 

“There are other alternatives for young kids, other sports, other football activities like flag football – which the NFL is heavily investing in. There is a way to love football and protect our kids,” said Assemblymember Kevin McCarty. “We’ve come to realize that there is no real safe way to play youth tackle football. There is no safe blow to the head for 6, 7 and 8 year olds and they should not be experiencing hundreds of sub-concussive hits to the head on an annual basis when there is an alternative.”

“As a neuroscientist and former football player at Harvard, I fully endorse AB 734. Now that the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention both recognize that head impacts in tackle football can cause the brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), it’s time to protect our young children from a harm they cannot understand,” said Co-founder and CEO of the Concussion Legacy Foundation Chris Nowinski. “To protect them, we don’t let children smoke, drink, or use indoor tanning beds. Why would we let eight-year-olds participate in an activity that we now know can give them a brain disease?”

“While the medical data seems complex, study results are convincingly clear the medical and scientific communities unanimously agree that repetitive head impacts, regardless of impact severity, lay the foundation for brain injury,” said Dr. Stella Legarda with the California Neurology Society. “Assembly bill 734 represents a significant step towards mitigating the accrual of such trauma.”

“The American tradition of youth football must be played in a manner that enriches – and not destroys – the brains and lives of our children,” said Dr. D. Pulane Lucas whose son passed away from CTE. “My son Stanley seemed to live the American dream. He excelled in football in middle school and high school in Los Angeles, at Stanford University, and played three seasons in the NFL. AB 734 will help families protect the youngest athletes and also reduce the pain, suffering, and loss that burdens families – like mine- impacted by CTE.”

“I think the phased approach and the ability to continue to play football at a young age through flag football is not a perfect approach, but I think it’s the best approach to ensure that young individuals in California have a chance to play at the high school level and not have their careers cut short,” said Assemblymember Avelino Valencia (D-Anaheim and former high school, collegiate, and professional football player).

“This bill is not taking away that ability (to play football), it’s simply saying that we’re going to move from tackle football to flag football and we can still have the same learning experiences, the same safe spaces as we do today,” said Assemblymember Mike Gipson (D-Carson and chair of the committee).

The bill will phase in the minimum age requirements in three tiers:

  • By January 1, 2025 kids age 6 and younger will no longer be allowed to play youth tackle football;
  • January 1. 2027 kids age 10 and younger will no longer be allowed to play youth tackle football;
  • January 1, 2029 kids age 12 and younger will no longer be allowed to play youth tackle football.

All youth athletes playing tackle football today won’t be affected until the proposed bill takes effect in 2025.

The bill will be heard on the Assembly Floor in the next coming months.