Are you a parent concerned your child will get a concussion playing on his youth football team? If so, a proposed bill by state Assembly members Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, and Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, D-San Diego, will be of interest to you.
The “Safe Youth Football Act” would “prevent young athletes from sustaining long-term brain damage caused by repetitive tackling, hitting and blocking.”
The bill will be considered this spring, and similar legislation has been proposed in Illinois, Maryland and New York. If enacted, California could be the first state in the nation to set a minimum-age requirement for youth tackle football, the lawmakers said.
The bill would affect thousands of families throughout the state.
The proposed law comes amid growing concern about long-term health effects from head injuries and scrutiny of football safety. The National Football League recently agreed to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to former players who said it hid concussion dangers from them. A class-action lawsuit was filed against Pop Warner, the nation’s largest youth football league, in 2016 claimed it jeopardized players by ignoring head-injury risks.
“The research is clear — when children participate in high-impact, high-contact sports, there is a 100 percent risk of exposure to brain damage,” said Dr. Bennet Omalu, author of a book on CTE and concussion.
Some football coaches questions those claims. Jason Miller, a former athletic director and head coach at multiple local Los Angeles area high schools says, “My thoughts are two-fold: Firstly, studies show head injuries are just as likely or more so in baseball and soccer. Parents should be trusted with the decision of allowing their kids to play America’s most popular sport.” Miller went further stating, “The youth football organizations in Inglewood and Carson are perhaps historically the most successful, and winningest in the country.”
Quincy Belafonte is the parent of an 12-year-old son. “I’m doing research, I told my son he didn’t have to play football. Watching them line up kids and them run straight at each other meeting helmet to helmet because at that age they don’t know how to probably hit, bothered me.” He shared an interaction with a former pop warner coach who told his son who has gone through the concussion protocol “we don’t get concussion, we’re football players, we don’t let anything stop us from playing football.”
Researchers studying the link between football and chronic traumatic encephalopathy found that 99 percent of the brains donated by families of former NFL players showed signs of the neurodegenerative disease.
Since 2009, participation in youth tackle football is down 20 percent, according to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association. While that drop can’t be pinned on one single reason, an increasing awareness of the dangers of the game no doubt plays a major role.
Is it worth the risk for your child?