In 2024, lawmakers in a few states are hoping to set a minimum age for tackle football in attempts to ban youth tackle football. Player safety in football has been hotly debated in recent years. Reports show that high school participation in tackle football began decreasing after the 2009–10 academic year, coinciding with increased concern for head injuries. Further, a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that young athletes between the ages of 6 and 14 who engage in tackle football experienced 15 times as many head impacts as their counterparts in flag football, both during practices and games. The study also revealed that the youth athletes who participated in tackle football endured 23 times more high-magnitude head impacts than their flag football peers.
Support for banning youth tackle football is growing. According to a 2023 poll, just over half of Americans (53%) support banning tackle football for children before high school.
California Bill to Ban Youth Tackle Football
In January 2024, the State Assembly advanced a bill to ban youth tackle football in California. AB 734 would prohibit children younger than 12 from participating in youth tackle football leagues and youth sports groups that conduct tackle football programs.
The bill would gradually restrict the ages of children participating in tackle football. By January 1, 2025, those younger than 6 would not be allowed to participate in youth tackle football. Those younger than 10 would not be allowed to participate in youth tackle football after January 1, 2027, and the 12-year-old restriction would go into effect on January 1, 2029.
However, on January 16, 2024, Governor GavinNewsom (D) came out and said he would veto any bill that included a full ban.
New York: Bills Would Ban Youth Tackle Football
Lawmakers in New York have introduced two pieces of legislation, A5530 and S4666, that would ban organized tackle football for children under 12 years old. Playing, practicing, and participating in any form of football that does not involve tackling would still be allowed.
The bills define “organized tackle football” as any practice, game, or other activity involving engaging in tackle football organized by a school, public or private league, or other entity that wishes to allow children to participate in contact football.
While both bills were introduced in early 2023, neither had advanced as of January 2024.
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