February 17, 2023
SAN FRANCISCO — For thousands of kids across California, tackle football is once again on the chopping block. A Sacramento area assemblyman introduced a new bill this week.
If passed, any child under the age of 12 would be banned from participating in the sport.
“My opinion is, of course, I don’t agree with it,” said coach Chewy Orr.
Coach Chewy is the head coach of the Oakland Dynamites youth football club. He says for many of the kids in his program, the game teaches kids valuable life lessons and is more than just a sport.
“Especially for us in the inner city, this is a tool we use to keep kids and parents active and busy,” coach Chewy said.
Several years ago, the state passed stricter regulation around youth tackle football. They created requirements around the amount of time hard contact is allowed and forced coaches to obtain certain health-related certifications.
Coach Chewy says while he understands people’s concerns, he thinks the sport has come a long way in ensuring safety.
“We can only contact an hour per week. We also supplemented contact with using bags,” Coach Chewy said.
But not everyone agrees. And some, like Dr. Brian Feeley with UCSF say tackle football is still an unsafe sport, especially for young children.
“A concussion for a younger kid is much more detrimental for their long-term brain health than it is when you’re an adult,” Dr. Feeley said.
Statistics from the CDC show that youth tackle football athletes between the ages of 6 and 14 sustained 15 times more head impacts than those who played flag football.
They also had a median of 378 head impacts per athlete during the season.
And Dr. Feeley believes, despite the improvements, current equipment is not good enough yet.
“It doesn’t prevent a concussion. A helmet doesn’t lower your risk of a concussion, even if you have a more fancy helmet,” Dr. Feeley said.
If the new bill becomes law, coach Chewy worries about the implications it could have for the 300 kids in his program.
Young people, he says, rely on it for role models and opportunities they otherwise probably wouldn’t have.
“A lot of kids and parents depend on this outlet each year. So it’ll be tough.” said coach Chewy.