California considering a bill that would make tackle football illegal in some cases
If there was a substance that, if used by children, caused permanent brain damage, parents would no doubt lobby their city councils or state legislatures to have that substance banned for their kids’ safety. This is, after all, why you don’t see lead paint used in houses anymore.
But what if the “substance” was tackle football?
That’s what has sparked a monster of a controversy in California, as State Assembly members Kevin McCarty of Sacramento and Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher of San Diego, both Democrats, have –depending on your perspective — either moved to protect children or grotesquely overreached on the nanny state even by California standards.
The “Safe Youth Football Act” would essentially put football into the same category as tobacco, alcohol and marijuana in the Golden State, making it age-restricted.
Organized tackle football would be outlawed until the high school freshman level.
The legislators claimed to be following the advice of doctors; it is the opinion of the many medical professionals that delaying allowing kids to play football until their brains are more developed helps prevent the worst of the brain damage, the same way waiting until the arm is fully developed to teach a baseball player to throw curveballs keeps the ligaments in the shoulder from fraying into a bowl of spaghetti. A Boston University study last year found that athletes who began playing tackle football before age 12 had more behavioral and cognitive problems later in life than those who started playing after they turned 12.
Said Fletcher, “The science is clear: Head injuries sustained at a young age can harm kids for the rest of their lives. Developing skills through flag football before high school is sound public policy from a health and safety standpoint.”
McCarty, meanwhile, had a statement of his own.
Addressing the needs for safety over glory, McCarty said, “The Super Bowl may be over, but the risk of brain injury to kids who play tackle football remains. The Golden State’s children need to know that no touchdown or interception is worth long-term damage to their brains caused by tackle football.”
It will be interesting to see how much of a political firestorm this sets off, but the early returns are not good for the politicians behind this one:
Wow! Our politicians are now ruining little league football. This is when kids learn to play. Let kids be kids. Stop this of ruining FOOTBALL.
— Mark (@Mark59202915) February 9, 2018
This is asinine it would also put HS players out of California at a disadvantage when it comes to scholarships and competitiveness. How about concentrate on making the game safer?.
— Krishelle Hursh (@KrishelleMH) February 9, 2018
— chrissy (@sontc) February 9, 2018
Ugh this is why ppl call CA a nanny state. What happened to the home of the free?
— Centrist J. PATRIOT (@PatriotCentrist) February 9, 2018
Others noted that football isn’t the only sport where participants suffer head trauma.
do not forget to include headers in Futbol (Soccer).
I know you are a former cheerleader and do not usually talk round ball.
but same dynamic apply. heavy hard ball striking young head leads to damage #RememberJuniorSeau
— First Jewish President ! Sanders Veinte Veinte (@gdelenes) February 9, 2018
Are you going to do the same for soccer?
— Machado Guy #3 (@k5james) February 9, 2018
No. Jr. All American & Pop Warner Football has literally saved thousands of kids from joining gangs & going 2 prison &/or getting killed. Let's find a way 2 make it safer, maybe mandate a Professional Trainer at games? PS…Cheerleaders get concussions, will you outlaw that 2!
— ?MsLetyC ? (@letygee) February 9, 2018
Another commenter, using vulgar terms, linked the ban on youth football to the decline of toughness in kids in America, capturing a still-popular view that bubble-wrapping kids does more to harm their emotional and physical durability than to protect them.
That’s not to say that parents don’t worry about the effects of brain damage; more and more parents are pulling their kids out of football, sensibly concluding in the comfort of their own home and deciding for their own family that the risks of CTE outweigh the benefits of tackle football.
But that’s parents making their own choices, not the government making those choices for them.
And California assembly members might be about to discover they’ve gone a bridge too far.
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