by Michael Wagner, Executive Commissioner SCC Pop Warner

Assembly members Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) and Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego) will be introducing the “Safe Youth Football Act,” legislation that will be considered this year by state lawmakers. These lawmakers are are legislating  on the premise that  there are significant health concerns for young athletes playing football while citing NFL Reports confirming CTE.

It’s obvious that these lawmakers don’t understand football.

Football has never been safer to play. The mandatory coaching and progression schemes to eliminate helmet to helmet contact put out by USA Football has reduced the number of injuries in football overall, not only concussions. New technology in equipment to safeguard against head trauma and injury for athletes playing football is the minimal standard and far better than any other time in the game. Football, like any other sport is safe for kids playing if taught the right way.

What alternative would there be to tackle football?

Calling flag football is calling flag football what it is flag football. It is not an alternative to the gridiron game of football. The two are very distinct in form and substance. While you can hone skills in flag football, the real game is dynamic beyond expression. It is one of those things that you cannot understand unless you have played the game. Anyone who played in the gridiron can tell you the dynamics of blocking and tackling are set of unique skills  themselves to play.  Plus they can tell you  the benefits of even playing one year in a helmet and pads in building character and physical confidence. Would you send your kids to high school to try out for the basketball or baseball team without playing and building skills to play the game? Why would lawmakers and over-protective parents think that kids can just jump into the most dynamic, physically demanding sport in the world and think they could handle its dynamics because they are in 9th grade.  It just doesn’t make any logical sense.

We know there is a link to CTE in repetitive contact sports. The fact is however, we don’t know the actual outcomes of having CTE in relation to mental illness or depression.  Why aren’t lawmakers banning youth boxing, karate or MMA or hockey?   More kids get hurt on trampolines than playing football. They haven’t banned them. Why aren’t construction workers not allowed to use a jackhammer anymore?  There are more catastrophic injuries to young girls knees in basketball and soccer, why aren’t they banning those sports for young girls? We know that people with seizures disorders can get CTE without any head trauma. Video games can cause seizures, so I guess we should ban all video games for kids too. Football is now just another political “buzzword” for nonsensical regulations and restrictions in the name of public health. It makes politicians feel better because they think they are protecting kids. But at what expense? Somewhere we lose our personal freedoms because of these types of regulations.

If lawmakers are concerned with our youth being injured in recreation and sport then they would legislate and tell us to keep them in the house.  There are more general exercise and recreational injuries than sports injuries but no lawmakers have tried to ban, skateboarding or biking, or hiking. While there is inherent risk in everything to scapegoat football as a major cause of youth sport injury  and future mental illness is just not good logic. According to the most recent (if I am wrong publish the new report) CDC report on recreational and sport injuries the National Health Statistics Report has “General Exercise” and “Basketball” for the activity most associated with injuries in children from 5-14 and 15-26 respectively.

Not having youth football as an option, In my opinion, has some devastating effects for the many children and families that are continuing to play and for us as citizens. This type of legislative initiative has some legal ramifications and creates a slippery slope. If government can regulate what sport I pick for my kids then they can pretty much regulate anything I do.  Government should stay out of my associations and choices. Fundamental for any woman to choose, why can’t me and my kids decide if they would like to play football?  Second, I think the law will have a disproportionate effect on boys and young men. Title IX has legally mandated that options in sports be representative for both genders. That is why the legislation isn’t targeting high school sports. They would have to get rid of some sport that serves girls in high school if they got rid of football.

Dr. Peter Cummings a forensic pathologist and  Neuro-pathologist, states in a recent article “You may have a read about a recently published paper reporting the presence of CTE in the brains of 99 percent of former National Football League players examined. The findings of this study sent the media into a frenzy and produced a lot of negative press toward football…Replication and independent verification are two crucial steps in the scientific process. Yet many findings associated with CTE haven’t passed these tests. Contrary to what appears in the headlines, multiple researchers have found no significant relationship between playing football and increased risk of violence, suicide and dementia in the general football playing population. In fact, studies have shown a lower rate of death due to violence and suicide in NFL players as compared to the general population.” Read the full article.

Please don’t let our Politicians buy into the hype, Don’t buy into the hype. @SaveCAFootball. Follow the link on Twitter.  Use the hashtag #saveCAfootball

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