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Citrus Heights vice mayor speaks out against AB 734 youth tackle football ban

By Sara Beth Williams–
Citrus Heights Vice Mayor Bret Daniels is seeking to gain the support of his fellow council members to officially oppose a proposed assembly bill that would ban tackle football for youths under 12 in the state of California.

In a March 9 City Council meeting, Daniels requested support for a future agenda item that would explore opposing current Assembly Bill 734.

AB 734, authored by California State Assemblyman Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), would prohibit youth sports organizations from allowing players younger than 12 to engage in tackle football.

The assembly bill has sparked support and opposition locally and nationally. During the March council meeting, Daniels said banning tackle football would leave “idle minds to get in trouble” and said he feels the city has an interest in keeping kids active.

“I believe the city council should oppose the effort to ban football for kids under 12,” Daniels said in a statement sent to The Sentinel.

This is not the first time a bill addressing safety in youth football programs has been proposed. In 2018, McCarty proposed an assembly bill similar to the current AB 734, according to a recent article published in the San Francisco Standard. The bill was pulled before it could reach a committee hearing.

Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove), proposed a bill to limit the amount of time in which youths engaged in tackle football during practices, according to a Sacramento Bee article published in January, 2019.

A 2018 study published by Boston University School of Medicine found that younger players engaged in tackle football may experience an earlier onset of cognitive, behavioral, and emotional problems than those who play after the age of 12.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association website, cognitive, behavioral, and mood changes are associated with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). The association describes CTE as a “progressive” brain disease associated with repeated traumatic brain injuries, such as concussions. Military Veterans and athletes who play high contact sports are at high risk of developing CTE.

Mesa Verde Head Varsity football coach Leonard Casillas has been involved with local youth football programs for over 12 years and helped start the Citrus Heights Jr. Mavericks in 2008.

“I believe football in general is the safest it’s ever been,” Casillas said in an interview with the Sentinel, adding that there are California laws limiting the amount of full contact play during weekly practices.

Casillas explained that teaching proper tackling techniques early can greatly reduce players’ chances and instances of injury. Casillas said he sees the difference in kids’ tackling techniques when he teaches high schoolers who have played football before 12 and those who began playing later.

“Football is getting attacked first by Mr. McCarty. What’s next? Soccer, wrestling, MMA?” Casillas said, adding that girls’ soccer also has high instances of concussions and head injuries.

If passed, AB 734 would become effective Jan. 1, 2026.

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