New State Law Limits Full-Contact Practices for Youth Football

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SACRAMENTO -- Following in the footsteps of the NFL, the NCAA and high schools, youth football in California now has guidelines for limiting full-contact practices.

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law the California Youth Football Act. Going forward, it will limit full-contact practices for youth football teams to no more than 30 minutes per day, twice a week to help reduce brain injuries.

“If we can really focus on the fundamentals of football, the fundamentals of tackling, keeping your head out of the tackle, blocking properly, all of these things that make the game safer, we've created a framework in which youth players can develop,” said youth football coach Jason Ingman.

“You want a kid that's going to last and enjoy the time they're playing the sport and make sure injuries aren't a factor in them quitting or not being able to play,” said youth sports fitness trainer Rance Palmer.

The new law, which doesn't go into effect until January 2021, also requires a medical professional be present at all youth football games and an independent person be at all practices to make sure all of the new rules are being enforced.

“I think it is a huge win for youth football in California,” Ingman said. “Hey, we could be held liable if we don't follow these rules. I think everybody is going to conform and it's going to make the game of youth football a lot safer.

What is different this time is that youth football advocates worked directly with Assemblyman Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove, who authored the bill.

The California Youth Football Act was written in sharp contrast to a bill introduced last year by Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, who wanted to ban tackle football for kids 12 and under.

“They wanted to see youth football stay intact,” Assemblyman Cooper said. “They knew we needed to change some rules regarding tackling. They were supportive of that.”

“Let's not ban it, let’s codify it into the safest way possible,” Ingman said. “We can never take all the risk out of football but if we can take every possible step to make the game as safe as possible, the game will continue to flourish for years to come.”

The California Youth Football Act is the first of its kind in the country to limit the amount of full-contact practice time.

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