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Sacramento Legislator submits bill limiting tackle football to kids over 12 years old

Sacramento Assemblymember Kevin McCarty has submitted a bill that requires kids to be at least 12 years old to play tackle football. McCarty cited the link between concussions in youth football and CTE. The NFL has been under the microscope for several years due to the number of concussions suffered by players and the number of retired players developing CTE.

If the bill passes and is signed by the Governor, it would take effect on January 1, 2026.

SACRAMENTO – Assemblymember Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) has introduced legislation requiring a child to be at least 12 years old to play tackle football. AB 734 will protect young athletes from being subjected to brain injury and trauma associated with playing tackle football.

Growing research is clear about the links between youth tackle football and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). In 2022, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) and the United States National Institutes of Health (NIH) concluded that CTE is caused by repetitive traumatic brain injuries.

Additionally, A Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study reports youth tackle football athletes ages 6-14 sustain 15 times more head impacts than flag football during a practice or game, and that head impacts increase the risk for concussion and other serious head injuries. It also reports that youth tackle football athletes experience about 378 head impacts per athlete during the season while flag football athletes experience about 8.

“Flag football is an alternative that is safer for youth and can still give them the opportunity to learn the skills to be successful at tackle football later in life,” said Assemblymember Kevin McCarty. “The 2023 NFL Pro Bowl was a flag football game for the safety of the players. Why can’t we have that for our youth?” AB 734 will help protect kids and nurture their brain development, and not put them in a situation that’s proven to cause irreparable harm.”

“As a neuroscientist and former football player at Harvard, I fully endorse AB 734. Now that the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention both recognize that head impacts in tackle football can cause the brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), it’s time to protect our young children from a harm they cannot understand,” said Co-founder and CEO of the Concussion Legacy Foundation Chris Nowinski. “To protect them, we don’t let children smoke, drink, or use indoor tanning beds. Why would we let eight-year-olds participate in an activity that we now know can give them a brain disease?”

“My son Taylor achieved his dream of playing football at Notre Dame,” said Tom Dever. “Ultimately, too many years of football caused him to develop stage 2 CTE, and after years of depression, anxiety, paranoia, memory problems, and failed treatments we lost him to substance abuse at 31. AB 734 will protect other families from losing their son from a brain disease that can come from too many years of head impacts in tackle football.”

“I support AB 734. Thank you California for taking this big step in saving our future: the kids. Let’s delay the banging of heads. You’ve got plenty of time after you get to high school,” said Pro Football Hall of Famer Warren Sapp.

“Sapp isn’t the only NFL legend who has spoken out about the effects of youth tackle football,” said Assemblymember McCarty. “John Madden, Troy Aikman, Steve Young, Drew Brees, Harry Carson, Tim Brown, and Bret Favre have all said young kids shouldn’t be playing tackle football. They were on the front lines and have experienced those high-impact hits; we should be listening to them.”

Assemblymember Kevin McCarty introduces legislation requiring a minimum age for kids to play youth tackle football
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