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Improving Helmet Safety for Children

March 16, 2011
  • To mark Brain Injury Awareness Month, today I led the introduction of bipartisan legislation to protect youth athletes from the dangers of sports-related traumatic brain injuries.

    The Children's Sports Athletic Equipment Safety Act would ensure that new and reconditioned football helmets for high school and younger players meet safety standards that address concussion risk and the needs of youth athletes. The bill also increases potential penalties for using false injury prevention claims to sell helmets and other sports equipment.

    Sports are the second leading cause of traumatic brain injury for people who are 15 to 24 years old, behind only motor vehicle crashes. Every year American athletes suffer up to an estimated 3.8 million sports-related concussions. More than one million American high school students play football, including nearly 8,000 high school students in New Mexico.

    The parents of one young student-athlete named Max Conradt wrote me to explain how Max, their 17-year-old son, returned to play too soon after suffering a concussion. Max was wearing a 20-year-old helmet when he suffered another concussion that led to brain damage. Max's parents wrote me to ask, "How is it possible that our son was issued a helmet three years older than he was?"

    This is unacceptable. It's important that we encourage young people to play sports and exercise, but athletes, coaches and parents also need to know about the dangers and signs of concussion. The helmet industry also needs to improve safety standards to address concussion and the needs of children. If that is not possible, then companies should not be using potentially misleading safety claims to sell "anti concussion" helmets to kids.

    Our bill already has a lot of support. The NFL Players Association is among 10 organizations and high-profile individuals that have already endorsed it. They are joined by the Brain Injury Association of America; Brain Trauma Foundation; Cleveland Clinic; Consumer Federation of America; Consumers Union; National ConsumersLeague; National Research Center for Women & Families; Nick Lowery, Kansas City Chiefs Hall of Fame; and Safe Kids USA.

    You can read more about the bill in this New York Times story.

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