A Sacramento assemblymember is trying to prevent children under 12 from playing organized tackle football.
Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, introduced AB 734 last year, but it will not get its first committee hearing until Wednesday. Concussion research, and the 2015 movie “Concussion,” about head trauma in the NFL, inspired the bill.
“AB 734 will protect a child’s brain development from unnecessary injury and trauma by requiring a child to be at least 12 years old in order to play tackle football. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Institutes of Health (NIH), and Boston University research is clear. Children that play tackle football sustain 23 times more hard head impacts than children playing flag football,” McCarty said.
McCarty noted in a 2023 news release announcing the bill that the NFL switched its Pro Bowl from tackle to flag.
If passed, the bill would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2026.
McCarty attempted a similar bill in 2018, but the bill never made it to a hearing. Since then, several other bills promoting youth football safety passed — such as concussion protocols, limiting full-contact practice to two per week and 30 minutes per practice, and training for coaches.
The bill has support from the California Neurology Society, Chris Nowinski, CEO of the Concussion Legacy Foundation; and NFL Hall of Famer Warren Sapp.
Several Assemblymembers, Organizations Oppose
The bill has a long list of opponents, which includes several Central Valley youth football groups such as Central Valley Ravens and the Central Valley Eagles football teams.
The California Youth Football Alliance calls the bill “a misguided discriminatory piece of proposed legislation that will only lead to immediate and harmful statewide negative outcomes for California’s youth.”
Prior legislation increasing safety makes the game safer, CYFA said.
“Youth tackle football is often embedded in large statewide underserved communities often serving as an alternative to drug abuse, gang violence, and many other pitfalls facing California’s youth. AB-734 would only serve to negate the positive impact youth coaches, volunteers, and mentors have on California’s youth,” the group said.
Other legislators are cautious about implementing more youth football regulations.
“I am deeply concerned about the loss of future academic and athletic opportunities for future scholar-athletes. If we ban the most formative years of this sport one has to wonder how many of our most underserved kids, and our most underserved communities will be affected over the course of the next generation?” Assemblyman Juan Alanis, R-Modesto, said.
Last year, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an Alanis bill into law that requires automated external defibrillators for youth sporting events.
Assemblyman Joe Patterson, R-Rocklin, also opposes the bill, he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.
The bill will be heard Wednesday at 9 a.m. in the Assembly Committee for Arts, Entertainment, Sports and Tourism. The seven-member committee is chaired by Mike Gipson, D-Carson.