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By Jeremy B. White
jwhite@sacbee.com


Tackling the divisive issue of brain injuries in football, the California Assembly voted Thursday to limit high school athletes to two full-contact practices a week.

A growing body of evidence linking football to debilitating brain injuries has shined a spotlight on youth sports. Assemblyman Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova, said his Assembly Bill 2127 should reassure parents that their kids are safe while still allowing teams to stay competitive.

"There's plenty of opportunities to work on skills, drills, conditioning, all kinds of things," Cooley said.

The measure was sent to the Senate for consideration on a 42-19 vote -- one yes vote beyond the 41 needed -- with 18 members not voting. While some lawmakers spoke of their own children's health in backing the bill, one critic took a different approach.

Noting that her son plays competitive soccer, Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto, worried about putting young athletes at a disadvantage.

"I want our student athletes to excel as much as they can," Olsen said, arguing that decisions about practice should rest at the local level.

A former critic of the bill, Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, R-Oceanside, said he decided to lend his support once he was satisfied coaches were on board. Supporters of AB 2127 include the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Brain Injury Association of California, and the measure drew no formal opposition.

PHOTO: Del Oro High School's Trey Udoffia is taken down by a Bakersfield High School defender during their Div. I state football championship game on Dec. 20, 2013 in Carson, Cailf. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua



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