By Sharon Bernstein
SACRAMENTO Calif. (Reuters) - Football practices at which middle- and high-school students tackle each other will be restricted in California under a law signed on Monday by Democratic Governor Jerry Brown, the latest U.S. effort to minimize brain injuries from the popular sport.
The measure, which limits practices with full-on tackling during the playing season and prohibits them during most of the off-season, comes amid growing concern nationwide over brain damage that can result from concussions among student as well as professional athletes.
"This is a very balanced approach," said Democratic Assemblyman Ken Cooley, the law's author.
Cooley had faced criticism for backing the bill, including heated talk radio discussions during which he was accused of going too far, but he said on Monday that the new law was supported by coaches.
"Concussion can change a kid's life," the Sacramento-area lawmaker said. "Viewed through that lens, this bill is not crazy. It's good for kids and it's good for parents."
The measure, which goes into effect in January, makes California the 20th state to restrict practices by middle school and high school football teams during which tackling and other full-contact activities are allowed.
In addition to limiting tackling during the season to two 90-minute practices a week, it also requires approval from a medical professional before students who suffer head injuries may return to the field.
Several studies have noted an increase in high school concussions in recent years, although it is not clear whether the rise is due to more injuries or improved diagnosis. Numerous professional football players have developed severe symptoms believed to have been caused by repeated head trauma.
Under the new law, any player who is suspected of having a head injury must be removed from athletic activity for the rest of the day.
(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Eric Beech)