Worried about the effects that brain trauma in youth sports could have for sufferers in the future, the California Assembly has passed a bill to restrict the amount of full-contact practices young football players can participate in.

As we have discussed in this blog before, research indicates that repeated blows to the head, which are common in contact sports like football, can lead to serious conditions like chronic traumatic encephalopathy and early dementia. This seems to be true even if the hits to the head do not cause concussions.

Unfortunately, brain trauma goes hand in hand with playing many youth sports. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that nearly four million high school students suffer brain injuries each year. Surely many, if not most, of that brain trauma happened during games or at practice.

The bill, introduced by Assemblyman Ken Cooley, seeks to end off-season full-contact practice for high school and middle school football teams. Practice in full pads would still be allowed during the season, but not more than twice per week, and those practices would be limited to 90 minutes per day.

Coaches and trainers would also be required to be more vigilant about caring for players who suffer a blow to the head. When that happens, the player would have to follow a supervised protocol for at least seven days before returning to action.

The state Senate passed the bill on June 19, sending it to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk for his approval. The bill is somewhat controversial, with some lawmakers calling it unnecessary. One state senator said that having fewer full-contact practices would cost some athletes college scholarships.

In addition, the California Medical Association criticized the idea for allowing “some licensed healthcare providers” who are nevertheless not trained in neurology to assess possible concussions on athletes.

Source: Los Angeles Times, “California lawmakers OK bill limiting high school football practices,” Patrick McGreevy, June 19, 2014