Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday signed into law AB 2127, which prohibits football teams at middle and high schools from holding full-contact practices that exceed 90 minutes a day, limits the number of full-contact practices during the season to two per week and prohibits contact practices during the off-season.
The restrictions, which take effect Jan. 1, 2015, are designed to help reduce concussions and other serious brain injuries.
The California Interscholastic Federation, which governs high school sports in the state, supported the bill that was sponsored by Assemblyman Ken Cooley (D-Rancho Cordova).
"AB 2127's practice guidelines will reassure parents that their kids can learn football safely through three hours of full-contact practice … to maximize conditioning and skill development while minimizing concussion risk," Cooley said.
Nearly 4 million high school students nationwide suffer head injuries every year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The law will come on the heels of a new CIF rule, going into effect this fall, that restricts California high school coaches from holding practices for more than 18 hours a week.
"Everybody is going to have to educate themselves and transition within the limitations," said John Aguirre, a former football coach who is commissioner of the Los Angeles City Section.
Some high school coaches say the new law and rule will interfere with their ability to field a quality team that is properly prepared to avoid injury.
The football team at Los Angeles Roosevelt High is typical among prep programs in that it holds full-contact practices in the preseason and plays a scrimmage game.
"In the summer, we do need to have full contact. We do need to figure out who can play," Roosevelt Coach Javier Cid said. "That's a very important part of our summer practice. That's how we determine who our starters will be."
Cid said his full-contract practices during the season fall easily within the limits of the new rules and he strives to keep all of his players safe and injury-free. He wonders how the state will enforce the law.
The measure was opposed by some lawmakers who said it was overreach by state government.
Sen. Joel Anderson (R-San Diego) voted against the new rules, saying the legislature should not be telling local officials how much time should be devoted to full-contact practices.
"I expect high school coaches to use common sense," Anderson said. "I expect them to be professional. I expect them to look at and understand their athletes and I expect them to protect their athletes to the best of their ability."
Cooley said 19 other states already ban full-contact practices in the off-season.
McGreevy reported from Sacramento, Sondheimer from Los Angeles.