Protecting our Youth from Concussions
As I wrote recently in an op-ed for CNN, this year there will be millions of sports-related concussions and many of them will go undiagnosed. Around 300,000 will result in a player losing consciousness. And although much of the media focus has been on football, the sport where the majority of concussions occur, it's certainly not limited to that sport.
Today the Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing to examine the brain injury epidemic and questionable advertising for products that claim to protect athletes against concussions.
Alexis Ball, a former UNM soccer player, has suffered ten concussions - five before she was in college and five while playing for UNM. In college, she wore protective headgear and was more aggressive on the field, believing she was protected. Nevertheless, a concussion in college ended her soccer career. Watch this clip from Alexis' testimony at the hearing today:
Earlier this year I introduced legislation aimed at protecting youth athletes from the dangers of sports-related concussions. My bill, which was discussed at today's hearing, would increase the safety standards for new and reconditioned football helmets for youth players. It would also increase the penalties for companies that make false injury prevention claims to sell more helmets and other sports equipment. I showed experts and players at today's hearing safety equipment that claimed to minimize the risk of concussions. Here's what they had to say about it:
I think we all agree that being active and participating in sports is important for kids of all ages on many levels. But considering that sports are the second leading cause of traumatic brain injuries between the ages of 15 to 24-years-old, we also need to take a serious look at how to protect athletes from head injuries. The last thing we want is for student athletes who are already at risk of concussions to be over-confident on the field due to misleading information about their protective gear.
We heard excellent testimony at today's hearing. I think my bill, the Children's Sports Athletic Equipment Safety Act, would address many of the issues that were raised with regards to football helmets. It would also increase the potential penalties for marketing children's sports gear with false injury prevention claims.
But it's clear we still have much to do in order to ensure our kids, coaches and parents are aware of the dangers of concussions and that the equipment they use is as safe as possible, without exaggerated claims of protection.