California Governor Jerry Brown has signed a bill into law that limits full-contact football practices for teenagers.
The move aims to reduce concussions and other head injuries for young athletes. Public middle school and high school teams are now only allowed to hold two full-contact practices per week for 90 minutes each during the season. In the off-season, it's not allowed at all.
“I don't know if that's better for a kid to have 90 minutes of continuous hitting as opposed to spaced out over three days,” said Steve Nelson, Head Coach Hoover High School.
Fresno's Hoover High School Head Coach, Steve Nelson, is somewhat caught in the middle.
“The spirit of the rule is to keep kids safe and eliminate contact, but I think the flip side of that argument is that you're not giving them enough contact to prepare for the contact they'll have in the games,” said Coach Nelson.
“I think it's putting my son in jeopardy,” said Ron McConnell, father of a football player.
Ron McConnell’s son plays on Hoover’s offensive and defensive lines. He does not support the new regulations, arguing that full contact and good health can co-exist.
“If you're hydrating your kid and their nutrition is the way it's supposed to be then that's going to help mitigate the brain trauma as much as reducing the hits.
Concussions are a controversial topic for professional players these days. In fact, there's currently a tentative settlement where the NFL would pay at least $765 million to compensate nearly 20,000 retired players who have developed neurological problems.
“It's a serious disease with permanent consequences,” said Terry Hutchison, Professor of Neurology at UCSF Fresno.
Professor Terry Hutchison of UCSF Fresno says traumatic brain injury appears to be a progressive disease.
Once you have an injury it starts a chain that may take years to finish developing into dementia, like Alzheimer's.
Which is why Hutchison says it's a good idea to limit an athlete's contact at a younger age.
“If we can take some extra precautions that can help people in the long run it's worth it,” said Hutichson.
California is not alone on this issue. 19 other states have already put similar limits in place for high school football practices.
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