Last January, New Mexico Senator Tom Udall asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate a football helmet manufacturer for making “misleading marketing claims” overstating the safety its helmets provided. This month, Senator Udall and New Jersey Congressman Bill Pascrell introduced legislation that would ensure new and reconditioned football helmets for high school and younger players meet safety standards governing concussion risk in youth sports.
The Children’s Sports Athletic Equipment Safety Act, which the Senators submitted to mark Brain Injury Awareness Day on March 18, also introduces tougher penalties to manufacturers that make false or misleading injury prevention claims about their helmets and other athletic equipment.
“We want our children to be active and athletic, but in the safest possible circumstances right down to the helmets they put on their heads,” stated Pascrell, co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force. “This bill is the logical next step in Congress’ effort to protect our young athletes from brain injuries,” Pascrell said, noting that last September the House also passed the ConTACT Act, which focused on what should be done when a young athlete sustains a concussion.
“Now, we are advancing a bill that makes sure we all do the right thing to help prevent our children from sustaining brain injuries in the first place.”
“Today, football faces a crisis … a brain injury epidemic that affects our country’s 4.5 million youth and high school football players,” said Udall, a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees consumer product safety and sports issues.
“While there will always be some risk of injury, we must make sure that athletes, coaches and parents know about the dangers and signs of concussion. We must also make sure that they are using safe equipment. And we must take any false advertising out of the game. This bill is an important step in that direction,” Udall added.
Dr. Nancy Chiaravallotithe, director of neuroscience research at the Kessler Foundation in West Orange, says that protecting young athletes from concussions is critical.
“Concussions are brain injuries that impact the brain permanently,” Chiaravalloti stated. “With every concussion, you are weakening the connections in the brain. Repeat concussions increase the risk of mild cognitive impairment … problems with thinking, learning and memory, and depression later in life, as well as illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease.”
Sports are one of the top causes of traumatic brain injury in people 15 to 24 years old, second only to motor vehicle crashes. Every year, American athletes receive an estimated 3.8 million sports-related concussions.