SAN FRANCISCO -- It's one of America's favorite sports, but for kids under the age of 12, tackle football could soon be a relic of the past in California.
It's all thanks to a new bill, authored by Sacramento Assemblymember Kevin McCarty, that's making its way through the state legislature.
McCarty defends the bill through a new Boston University study, examining 152 athletes who were under 30 years old when they died. Of those, roughly 40% had the brain disorder CTE - which has been linked to repeated head injuries.
"When we look at kids under the age of 12, tackle football is a high-risk sport," said Dr. Brian Feeley, the head of sports medicine at UCSF.
Dr. Feeley says he supports the bill because of the elevated risk of concussions that comes with tackle football.
He says these risks are especially heightened for young kids whose brains are in their most important stages of development.
"You're at higher risk for anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation," Dr. Feeley said.
Dr. Feeley says instead of tackle football, flag football is a far safer option.
Not everyone agrees with this bill, though.
That includes some local coaches in Oakland who say they fear it'll disproportionately impact young kids of color.
"We deal with a lot of low-income families. A lot of families that go through struggles and maybe don't have a male figure at home," said Chewy Orr.
Chewy Orr and Damon Gardner are the coaches of the youth tackle football team, the Oakland Dynamites.
They tell ABC7 News for teams like theirs, football is more than just a sport, it's a way to teach kids about things like friendship, leadership, and camaraderie.
They also say sports besides football also carry the risk of injuries.
"You can jump in basketball, you can fall down and hit your head and get a concussion. Look at the pitcher. If you're playing baseball, they're throwing 90 mph at you," said Gardner.
And as for flag football, Coaches Chewy and Damon say they don't think it's a suitable alternative.
"Flag football just doesn't carry enough kids. We have 30 kids. Flag football typically though we'd maybe have about 15," Orr said.
The bill passed 5-2 in the California State Assembly's Arts, Entertainment, Sports, and Tourism Committee meeting Wednesday morning and now moves to the full Assembly for a vote before going to the State Senate.
If passed, the bill would take effect in 2026.
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