SACRAMENTO — Two California lawmakers want to outlaw tackle football leagues until teenagers reach high school, saying delaying the start of high-contact elements of football would protect young people from long-term brain damage.
Children can learn the skills they need to succeed at the sport from non-contact flag football, Democratic Assembly members Kevin McCarty of Sacramento and Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher of San Diego said in announcing their legislation on Thursday.
Their bill follows similar legislation under consideration in Illinois and New York. Legislation has been introduced several times since 2013 in New York but has not gained traction.
In Illinois, the Dave Duerson Act to Prevent CTE is named for the Chicago Bears defensive back who was diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy after he killed himself at 50.
Duerson shot himself in the chest so his brain could be studied for signs of the disease that has been linked to concussions or repeated head trauma.
“The science is clear: head injuries sustained at a young age can harm kids for the rest of their lives,” Gonzalez Fletcher said in a statement.
California has strengthened concussion protocols for youth sports but that’s not enough, the lawmakers said.
CTE is a degenerative disease known to cause memory loss, violent moods and other cognitive difficulties. It can only be diagnosed after death.
After years of denials, the NFL has acknowledged a link between head blows and brain disease and agreed in 2015 to a $1 billion settlement with former players.