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Senators Welcome Committee Passage of Bill to Protect Young Athletes from Concussions, Tackle False Safety Claims for Sports Gear
Late last month, U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) welcomed passage of their bill in the Senate Commerce Committee aimed at protecting young athletes from the dangers of sports-related traumatic brain injuries. The senators, all members of the committee, introduced the Youth Sports Concussion Act earlier this year to help ensure that safety standards for sports equipment, including football helmets, are based on the latest science and curb false advertising claims made by manufacturers to increase protective sports gear sales.
“Today’s Commerce Committee passage of our Youth Sports Concussion Act marks an important step toward cracking down on misleading claims and ensuring New Mexico kids can have fun and play sports safely,” Udall said. “Sports are an important part of staying active and learning the value of teamwork for many kids. Parents and coaches want to do everything they can to keep their kids safe on the field or the court, and they deserve to have the facts needed to make knowledgable safety decisions. Our bill would help stop companies that take advantage of parents and athletes’ concerns about concussions and falsely market products as ‘safety’ equipment, despite little evidence that the products protect players.”
“One thing’s certain about Minnesotans – we love our sports. But whether it’s football, hockey, or the many other sports we play and love, parents, coaches, and young athletes must be equipped with the facts and informed of the risks when making safety decisions,” Klobuchar said. “Today’s Commerce Committee passage of our bill will protect our athletes and help make sure they can continue to compete on and off the field safely.”
“I am proud that the Senate Commerce Committee voted to advance the Youth Sports Concussions Act,” Blumenthal said. “We know all too well that the dangers of head injuries are real. As the science around prevention develops, this important bill will ensure our federal agencies can crack down on athletic equipment manufacturers that peddle quackery. No company should be able to use deceptive claims to exploit parents’ natural instincts to protect their children. Our youngest athletes – our future sports heroes – deserve accurate information to make informed decisions so that the sports they play today can be sports they play for a lifetime.”
Udall, Klobuchar and Blumenthal introduced the Youth Sports Concussion Act ahead of Super Bowl 50, amid discussion among doctors, players, researchers and others about the need to protect players – especially young athletes – from experiencing debilitating head injuries. Athletes suffer up to 3.8 million concussions every year, and sports are the second-leading cause of traumatic brain injuries among youth ages 15-24.
An extensive National Academy of Sciences report previously found a lack of scientific evidence that helmets and other protective devices designed for young athletes reduce concussion risk – yet some manufacturers continue to use false advertising claims that prevent athletes, parents and coaches from making informed safety decisions.
In 2012, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warned nearly 20 sports equipment manufacturers that they might be making deceptive concussion prevention claims, but the FTC’s actions thus far have not deterred companies from making these claims. The Youth Sports Concussion Act would empower the FTC to seek civil penalties in such cases.
Udall has led efforts in Congress to improve equipment safety standards and curb false advertising claims, focusing on ensuring parents, coaches and players have the information they need to make important decisions about how to prevent head injuries. A previous version of the Youth Sports Concussion Act passed the Senate Commerce Committee in April 2014. Last year, Udall and Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) called on the FTC to investigate potentially misleading safety claims used to sell soccer headgear. Udall also worked to include several concussion prevention provisions in December’s appropriations bill.
The Table of Contents for the May 2016 issue of Concussion Litigation Reporter is available:
The Limits of Fairness Ethics and Gender Equity in Football
Former Jacksonville University Player Sues School, Trainer, and Others over Concussions
With the Risk of Concussion, Athletes Should Consider a Lasting Power of Attorney
Judge Grants Helmet Maker’s Motion to Dismiss Product Liability Claim
Canadian Football League Decrees that Injury Spotter Will Be Added to Command Centre for All Games
Former USC Player, Who Claims He Was Forced to Play While Concussed, Settles with School and Ex-Coach
The NFL Should Be Doing More If It Wants to Preserve the Future of the Game
Developing an Athletic Department Concussion Management Policy/Protocol
Ex-NFL Player Tracy Scroggins’ Lawsuit Against the NFL Faces Major Hurdle
Steady Examines Sub-concussive Hits and the Damage They Can Cause
Case Against NCAA in Death of Football Player Will Go to Trial
(Editor’s Note: What follows is an excerpt from an article that appeared in the April issue of Concussion Litigation Reporter. To subscribe, visit the following link – http://concussionpolicyandthelaw.com/subscribe/)
A confidential settlement agreement has reportedly been reached between the parties in Walen v. Portland State University, et al., in the Circuit Court of the State of Oregon, Multnomah County, No. 14CV12218.
While the financial terms weren’t disclosed, attorneys for plaintiff Zachary Walen noted that Portland State University (PSU) has agreed to update the concussion policy used by its sports medicine staff. The changes reportedly include:
- The risk of developing post-concussion syndrome will be included in the education provided to student-athletes and the training provided to coaches and staff.
- The training of coaches and staff will include an explanation regarding the concussion healing process, which depending on the student athlete’s condition, can take weeks and possibly longer.
- Student-athletes will be informed of their right to seek, at their own cost, a return-to-play opinion from a physician who is not a member of the PSU Sports Medicine Staff. The most conservative opinion will be followed. All student-athletes will be informed of this option during the education provided to student-athletes.
- At the student-athlete’s request and with his or her consent, the parent(s) of a concussed student-athlete will be informed if their son or daughter has been diagnosed with a concussion and when the student-athlete has been cleared to return to full sport participation. All student-athletes will be informed of this option during the education provided to student-athletes.
The initial injury to Walen, who sought $5 million in damages, occurred on opening day in September of 2012 during the linebacker’s first game as a Viking. It is uncontested that in the fourth quarter of that game that Walen suffered a head injury after a direct blow to the head. Though coaches and staff allegedly failed to identify the concussion in the aftermath of the hit, Walen’s parents brought him to the hospital shortly after the game, where he was diagnosed with a concussion.
The plaintiff alleged in his complaint that …
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