May 15, 2012

Udall Calls Football Helmet Replacement Partnership "Important Step"

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) expressed support for the youth football safety and helmet replacement program launched today by the "Youth Football Safety and Helmet Partnership." The pilot program will remove and replace football helmets that are 10 years or older and will provide coaches with the latest educational information to help keep young athletes healthier and safer in underserved communities in four markets, the California Bay Area, Gulf Coast region, Northern Ohio, and the tri-state region around New York City. 

"I am pleased to see the NFL, USA Football and manufacturers working together to make sure our young football players are not wearing 10-year-old helmets that no longer meet industry safety standards," Udall said. "Increasing awareness of equipment safety and sports concussion will help protect young players from injury."

According to their announcement, the NFL, NFLPA, NCAA and NOCSAE have committed a combined total of approximately $1 million to the program in its first year. In 2012 the program is expected to provide nearly 13,000 new helmets to youth football players beginning in July. In addition, NAERA members will no longer recondition or recertify any helmet that is 10 years of age or older.

The partnership is comprised of the National Football League (NFL), NFL Players Association (NFLPA), USA Football, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Athletic Equipment Reconditioners Association (NAERA), NCAA, National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE), Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA), Rawlings, Riddell, Schutt, and Xenith, and with support from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

Industry estimates show that 100,000 football helmets more than ten years old, and thousands almost twenty years old, were worn by players in the 2009 season.

Udall has been a strong proponent of improving standards for youth football helmets. On November 30, 2010, Udall wrote Inez Tenenbaum, Chairwoman of the CPC, requesting an investigation into adequacy of current helmet safety standards.

"I want to thank CPSC Chairwoman Inez Tenenbaum for initiating this effort, and the CDC for their involvement." said Udall. "But it is important to emphasize the limited ability of sports equipment to prevent concussions-not just in football but in all sports. Young players as well coaches and parents should know CDC guidelines when it comes to sports concussion: when in doubt, sit it out. "

In addition to the letter to Tenenbaum, Udall introduced S. 601, the Children's Sports Athletic Equipment Act of 2011, to require a review of current helmet safety standards, issue mandatory safety rules for helmets if the current standards are deemed inadequate, establish third party testing and certification of new and reconditioned football helmets worn by those 18 years and younger, and allow the FTC to impose civil penalties for unfair and deceptive practices related to sports equipment advertising and reconditioning.

Last year, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation also held a hearing on this issue at Udall's request.