A group of states have moved in recent days to outright ban tackle football for youth players.
On Thursday, a Maryland bill that would ban the state’s Board of Education from approving tackle football programs for children under age 14 was formally filed with the state house. In Illinois, a law that would ban tackle football for children younger than 12. A similar law has been filed in New York state.
California lawmakers have also authored a similar proposal, in what the Los Angeles Times says would make California “the first state to prohibit minors from playing organized tackle football before high school.” From the paper:
The lawmakers said they were following advice of medical professionals who believe limiting tackle football would help prevent young athletes from sustaining long-term brain damage caused by repetitive tackling, hitting and blocking.
“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. “Developing skills through flag football before high school is sound public policy from a health and safety standpoint.”
And while those states work to outlaw or severely limit tackle football at the sub-high school level, their efforts may be largely redundant. According to data compiled by the Aspen Institute, participation in tackle football for kids between ages 6 and 12 dropped by 28 percent between 2008 and 2016. Flag football participation fell 27 percent over that same period.
USA Football has attempted to combat this issue through its rookie tackle program, but this is an issue larger than one program can fix.