AB 2127 Limits Full-Contact Football Practices to Reduce Concussions and Head Injuries

On July 21, 2014, Governor Jerry Brown announced he signed AB 2127 into law, adding Education Code section 35179.5 and amending section 49475 to limit full-contact football practices at the middle school and high school levels.

Under AB 2127, which takes effect January 1, 2015, drills involving game speed tackling are prohibited in the off-season and are limited to 90 minute sessions twice a week during the rest of the year. These rules apply to public, private, and charter schools. Additionally, an athlete suspected of sustaining a concussion or head injury is prohibited from returning to the athletic activity until the athlete is evaluated by and receives written clearance from a licensed health care provider. Under AB 2127, a “licensed health care provider” has received training in the management of concussions and is acting within the scope of his or her practice. If a licensed health care provider determines the athlete sustained a concussion or a head injury, the athlete is required to complete a graduated return-to-play protocol of at least 7 days in duration under the supervision of a licensed health care provider. As described by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the return-to-play protocol consists of five steps following a complete physical and the absence of concussion symptoms for a 24 hour period. The steps progress from light aerobic exercises for five to ten minutes, to moderate exercise, to non-contact but more intense exercise, to a reintegration into full practice, and finally a return-to-play.

Education Code section 35179.5 defines full-contact practice, off-season, preseason, and regular season. A “full-contact practice” is a practice where drills or live action involves collisions at game speed, where players execute tackles, and other activities that are typical of an actual tackle football game. The “off-season” is the period extending from the end of the regular season until 30 days before the commencement of the next regular season. The “preseason” is a period of 30 days before the beginning of the regular season. The “regular season” is the period from the first interscholastic football game or scrimmage until the completion of the final interscholastic football game of that season.

Assemblyman Ken Cooley, the bill’s author, stated AB 2127 is motivated by parents worried about the risks associated with concussions, which include long-term brain damage and early onset dementia. Because adolescents often suffer from post-concussive symptoms longer than their older counterparts, it is recommended their recovery process proceed in a more cautious manner. Implementing the supervised return-to-play standards included in this bill will help reduce the risk that young athletes who have suffered a brain injury return to the field too soon.

The bill does not prohibit the California Interscholastic Federation, an interscholastic athletic league, a school, a school district, or any other appropriate entity from adopting and enforcing rules intended to provide a higher standard of safety for athletes than the standard established under AB 2127.

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