By Eugene Egdorf, of Shrader & Associates, L.L.P.
On July 31, California Governor Gavin Newsome signed into law, AB 1, the California Youth Football Act, which establishes safety standards for youth football. This legislation was much needed, unfortunately, because those running youth football in California did not take it upon themselves to put into place the common-sense measures imposed by this legislation. There is nothing in this bill that should be controversial, particularly in comparison to the original bill, which called for a tackling ban. If anything, there should be concern that the law does not go into effect until January 1, 2021, meaning that two full seasons will be played without these important safety measures.
The legislation simply requires the same types of safety standards that are required at California’s high schools. For example, full contact practices are limited to twice per week, and the law limits such practices to 30 minutes. We know scientifically and medically that young and developing brains are more susceptible to the effects or repetitive head trauma such as those suffered in practices. Incredibly, many youth coaches are against the law, professing concern for how well players will develop their skills. Of course, there are similar practice limitations in not just high school football, but college football and even the NFL as well, and those changes have not only resulted in no harm to the game, but also have resulted in fewer concussions and brain impacts. It’s a win-win. Period.
Just as important, the law requires an unaffiliated person be present at practices that has knowledge and expertise on concussion protocols, CPR, and first aid. The law even goes so far as to state that this person will have the uncheckered authority to remove any player from practice as he (or she) deems medically necessary. These are the same sort of rules in place for the NFL — don’t our children deserve the same care?
The other provisions of the law are of also of significance and can only serve to protect these players. Youth football coaches are now required to obtain annual certifications in blocking and tackling techniques. Injuries are often caused by poor technique, and frequently associated with poor coaching. It’s frankly about time that those teaching our youth be properly equipped to do so.
Finally, an essential safety feature is the requirement that an EMT, paramedic or doctor be present at all games. Doesn’t this seem like common sense — yet it took legislation to bring this safety enhancement about.
As I have written here and elsewhere many times, lawsuits and legislation are often the only routes to make change that enhances our safety. It shouldn’t be that way, especially when it comes to our youth. But unfortunately when it comes to youth football those with the charge or caring for our children have refused to do so. This is a big step in the right direction. We can only hope that other states soon follow.
Egdorf represents clients in commercial and complex litigation matters as well as sports-related head injuries. He has worked on cases including matters involving antitrust, patent infringement, oil and gas, fraud, employment, securities, deceptive trade practices, breach of contract, and products liability. He can be reached at email@example.com