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Two state lawmakers want to ban tackling in youth football

Two California lawmakers are trying to ban tackling from youth football.

Posted: Feb 9, 2018 7:15 PM
Updated: Feb 9, 2018 7:16 PM

The high-scoring Super Bowl was action-packed and full of hard hits, including one that knocked New England Patriots wide receiver Brandin Cooks out of the game with a head injury. Those kinds of injuries have grabbed the attention of two California lawmakers who have introduced a bill to prevent kids from playing tackle football before they reach high school. Action News Now's Ross Field talked with a few people including a coach about this proposed bill.

Football is a violent sport full of big hits.

Andy Hopper played for Paradise High School. As a lineman he dished out and received a fair share of hits. But he says he knows how to tackle.

"You always keep a nice base in your stance. You're always wrapping around, always keeping your head up and you're getting nice and low, not standing straight up and you're driving your legs into the tackle and bringing the body down to the ground," says Hooper.

Hopper now teaches proper tackling to the next generation as an assistant coach for Paradise youth football. Andy's son Riley plays.

"We're always looking after the kids. We always want proper form and proper technique because if there is poor technique that is where you can get an injury," says Hooper.

Injury, that's an important term.

Other parents push their kids towards other sports. They don't want their kids to take the big hits that are causing concussions and potentially long-term brain diseases like CTE.

Krystal Felix is a Chico State student and she says when she has kids, they're not playing football.

"I'd promote soccer, more less impactful sports as well. We've seen through movies and recent studies how impactful football can be to your head and your body, so it's kind of dangerous and I definitely would not promote that for my kids," says Felix.

Democratic Assembly Members Kevin McCarty of Sacramento and Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher of San Diego have introduced a bill called the "Safe Youth Football Act," legislation that will be considered this year by state lawmakers. 

Under the bill, organized tackle football would be banned until kids become of high school age.

"I'm kind of in between. I'd rather see better equipment and better supervision, but nobody wants to see their grandchild on the field crying or hurt," says Patricia Thatcher.

Michelle Ibarra, who's three boys all play football, says if kids don't learn how to tackle at a young age, there's a higher risk for players laying the vicious and illegal hits in high school.

"If the kids are dedicated from six-years-old up to twelve-years-old before they get into high school, they're more then prepared. They're teaching children 'heads up' football and that's to prevent things like concussions," says Ibarra.

And Hopper says it should be up to the parents to decided whether they want their kids playing tackle football.

"I feel like taking that right out of a parents' hands isn't the right thing to do. If there's good coaching and there's the good things my son can get out of football, I want to chose that and I want to be able to be the one to make that decision," says Hooper.

If the bill passes, flag football would take the place of tackle football at the youth levels.

Similar legislation has been introduced in Illinois and New York.

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