The Federal Trade Commission testified before Congress this week on actions it has taken to help ensure that concussion protection claims made for football helmets and other sports equipment are truthful and supported by reliable scientific evidence.
Testifying on behalf of the Commission before the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade, Richard Cleland, Assistant Director for Advertising Practices in FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, outlined the agency’s enforcement efforts. The testimony notes that as awareness of the danger of concussions has grown, manufacturers have started making concussion-protection claims for an increasing array of sports-related products.
“Given the dangers that concussions pose for young athletes engaged in sports, it is essential that advertising for products claiming to reduce the risk of this injury be truthful and substantiated,” the testimony states.
The testimony points out that in August 2012 the Commission announced a settlement with the marketers of the Brain-Pad mouth guard. The Commission alleged that Brain-Pad, Inc. and its president lacked a reasonable basis for their claims that Brain-Pad mouth guards reduced the risk of concussions, especially those caused by lower jaw impacts, and that they had falsely claimed that scientific studies proved that those mouth guards did so. The order in that case prohibits these and other deceptive claims.
In November 2012, after the order in the Brain-Pad case became final, the Commission staff sent out warning letters to 18 other manufacturers of sports equipment, advising them of the Brain-Pad settlement and warning them that they might be making deceptive concussion protection claims for their products, according to the testimony.
The Commission staff also investigated concussion risk reduction claims made by three major manufacturers of football helmets: Riddell Sports Group, Inc., Schutt Sports Inc., and Xenith, LLC. The staff closed the investigations without taking formal action. All three companies discontinued potentially deceptive claims in their advertising, or had agreed to do so, the testimony stated.
The Commission will continue monitoring the market to ensure that advertisers do not mislead consumers about their products’ concussion-protection capabilities, or the science behind them. The Commission’s approach will be balanced, to avoid inadvertently chilling research or impeding development of new technologies and products that truly do provide concussion protection, the testimony concluded.
The Commission vote approving the testimony and its inclusion in the formal record was 4-0.