Posted on May 23, 2013 · Posted in Brain Injury

This week legislation was introduced in Washington that calls for improvements in sports-equipment safety standards and a crackdown on false advertising regarding such gear. It’s great news.

U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and John D. “Jay” Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Wednesday introduced the legislation, whose goal is to protect youth athletes from sports-related traumatic brain injuries (TBI).

A lot of unsubstantiated claims are made by manufacturers of gear such as football helmets, and that needs to stop. This proposed law would do that.

The Youth Sports Concussion Act will help “ensure that safety standards for sports equipment are up to date and informed by the latest science,” according to a press release from Udall’s office.  The bill will also increase potential penalties for using false injury prevention claims to sell youth sports equipment.

“We want our children to be active and participate in sports, but we must take every precaution to protect them from traumatic head injuries,” Udall said in a statement. “There will always be some risk, but athletes, coaches and parents need to be aware of the dangers and signs of concussion. And in order for them to best protect the young athletes, we must make sure they are using safe equipment and curb misleading advertising that gives them a false sense of security.”

Rockefeller issued a statement, as well.

“Parents and coaches must be able to have confidence in the sports safety equipment they buy for their children and the protection it claims to offer,” Rockefeller said.

“Unfortunately, many parents are still deceived by sports equipment manufacturers who make false promises about their products’ ability to prevent or reduce concussions,” he said. “This has to stop. Major sports leagues, players associations, pediatricians, scientists, and consumer groups all agree, and it’s why they support our bill. We need to make sure that protective sports equipment is sold based on the latest science, not false or deceptive claims.”

At Rockefeller and Udall’s urging, this past October the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences said it was forming  a committee to assess how best to protect young athletes from sports-related concussion.

The Senate Commerce Committee also held a hearing in October 2011, which found that sports-equipment manufacturers have repeatedly made claims that their equipment “prevents concussions” or “reduce the risk of concussions” without scientific evidence to prove them.

Sports are the second-leading cause of TBI for people who are 15 to 24 years old, behind only motor vehicle crashes, according to Udall’s press release. And medical research now indicates that repeated blows to the head in numerous sports may lead to lasting brain damage, including chronic traumatic encephalopathy, CTE. That disease has been diagnosed in dozens of former NFL players from postmortem studies of their brains.

“For over 30 years, I’ve worked as a health care provider caring for and treating student athletes on the field, so I have seen the damages of concussions first hand,” Timothy Acklin, former president of the New Mexico Athletic Trainers Association, said in a statement.

“Coaches, athletic trainers and parents not only have to make sure the equipment fits properly in order to reduce trauma, but we have to trust that the protective gear is based on scientific findings, not unfounded promises,” Acklin said. “I support the efforts of Senators Udall and Rockefeller to reduce the risk of head traumas that have real, lasting effects on our children.”

The Youth Sports Concussion Act will:

  • Instruct the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to review the findings of a forthcoming National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report on sports-related concussions in youth;
  • Authorize the CPSC to make recommendations to manufacturers and, if necessary, promulgate new consumer rules for protective equipment based on the findings of the NAS report; and
  • Allow the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to impose civil penalties for using false claims to sell protective gear for sports. State attorney generals could also enforce such violations.

About the Author

Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.
Past Chair Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, American Association of Justice :: 800-992-9447