May 22, 2013

Udall, Rockefeller Introduce Bill to Help Protect Young Athletes from Sports-Related Traumatic Brain Injuries

WASHINGTON - To mark National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, 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, today introduced legislation that seeks to protect youth athletes from the dangers of sports-related traumatic brain injuries by improving equipment safety standards and curbing false advertising claims.

The Youth Sports Concussion Act will help ensure that safety standards for sports equipment are up to date and informed by the latest science. 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," said Udall. "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."

"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," said Rockefeller. "Unfortunately, many parents are still deceived by sports equipment manufacturers who make false promises about their products' ability to prevent or reduce concussions. 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 announced the formation of a committee to assess how best to protect young athletes from sports-related concussion. During the 2011-2012 school year, more than 300,000 high school athletes in the most common sports were diagnosed with concussions, though many head injuries continue to go unreported and ignored. Researchers have found that children and adolescents are particularly susceptible to concussions and that - once concussed - the likelihood of suffering another increases each time.

The Senate Commerce Committee also held a hearing in October 2011 which uncovered 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 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. New medical research indicates that repeated blows to the head in numerous sports may lead to lasting brain damage, including Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, also known as "punch drunk syndrome."

"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," said former president of the New Mexico Athletic Trainers Association Timothy Acklin ATC, LAT. "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. 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 attorneys general could also enforce such violations.

The Youth Sports Concussion Act is endorsed by numerous sports, medical, and consumer organizations:

American Academy of Neurology
American Academy of Pediatrics
Brain Injury Association of America
Brain Trauma Foundation
Cleveland Clinic
Consumer Federation of America
Consumers Union
Major League Baseball (MLB)
MLB Players Association
Major League Soccer (MLS)
Major League Soccer Players Union
National Association of State Head Injury Administrators
National Athletic Trainers Association
National Basketball Association (NBA)
National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)
National Consumers League
National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS)
National Football League (NFL)
National Hockey League (NHL)
National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE)
New Mexico Brain Injury Advisory Council
NFL Players Association
Safe Kids Worldwide
US Lacrosse
US Soccer Federation
USA Hockey

The text of the legislation can be accessed below.

Youth Sports Concussion Act