California lawmakers OK bill limiting high school football practices

The Long Beach Poly defense pursues St. Bonaventure's Bryce Dixon during Pac-5 quarterfinal football playoff game last November.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

California lawmakers on Thursday approved legislation that restricts football practices in an attempt to reduce concussions and brain injuries to student athletes.

The Senate sent Gov. Jerry Brown the measure that would prohibit high school and middle school football teams from holding full-contact practices during the off-season and bar them from conducting more than two full-contact practices per week during the season.

AB 2127 by Assemblyman Ken Cooley (D-Rancho Cordova) also would prohibit teams from holding full-contact practices that exceed 90 minutes on a single day and would require an athlete who has sustained a head injury or concussion to complete a supervised return-to-play protocol of at least seven days.

Nearly 4 million high school students nationwide suffer head injuries every year, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention.


Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) said concussions suffered by football players can lead to more serious brain problems down the road.

The measure is supported by the American Academy of Neurology, the Brain Injury Assn. of California and the California Interscholastic Federation.

“Academic studies have shown that the cumulative effects of sub-concussive blows to the brain experienced during football may contribute to long-term brain damage and early-onset dementia,” the Brain Injury Assn. said in a statement to lawmakers.

Five Republicans include Sen. Steve Knight of Palmdale voted against the bill. Knight said there are already sufficient safety measures in place and limiting full-contact in practices will prevent coaches from preparing players for safely playing in games.

It also could mean fewer California high school players getting college scholarships, he said. “It distinctly puts our kids in California at a disadvantage when it comes to recruiting,” Knight said.

The measure is opposed by the California Medical Assn., which said in a statement to lawmakers that the bill’s intent was “laudable,” but that it could allow “some licensed healthcare providers without the proper training in concussions and neurology to perform these assessments.”

The Senate on Thursday also approved a measure that would designate the California red-legged frog (Rana draytonii) as the official state amphibian.

AB 2364 by Assemblyman V. Manuel Perez (D-Coachella), also goes to Gov. Brown for consideration.