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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.
Washington DC Personal Injury Lawyer Joseph Cammarata believes the time is now to “protect the rights of injured athletes and brain injury victims.”
To that end, he authored The Athletic Concussion Protection Act of 2011, which he said recently “is designed to protect athletes age 18 or younger in the District of Columbia from the risks of concussions. The Act applies to youth athletes participating in any type of athletic activity with any public, private, charter school, or youth league.
“The core of the Act – which is considered one of the most expansive pieces of similarly themed legislation in the country – requires an athlete who is suspected of sustaining a concussion to be immediately removed from practice or play. Athletes are not to return to play unless and until they receive clearance from a licensed health care provider. The Act also establishes requirements for an educational program for athletes and their parent or guardian and requires a training program to be established by rulemaking.”
On February 14, the attorney saw the act become closer to reality when the Mayor of the District of Columbia, through the Department of Health, published proposed rules to implement the concussion protection training program required by the Act.
The proposed training program requires each coach, athletic trainer, and physical education teacher to take online concussion training, as specified in the proposed rules, and to provide a certificate of completion to the organization for whom they are working. This training must be renewed every two years. The required training must be completed before they are allowed to supervise any practice. The proposed rules also require a school offering an athletic activity to provide training to school personnel to recognize the signs and symptoms of concussion and their manifestations in a school setting. Comments on the proposed rules must be made no later than thirty days after their publication. A copy of the rules can be found at the D.C. Municipal Regulations and D.C. Register.
“The Act is a significant step toward protecting young athletes from the long-term risks posed by concussions and chronic brain injury,” said Cammarata.
Cammarata is currently representing a professional football player involved in the recent NFL concussion lawsuit. He is also a founder and current President of the Brain Injury Association of Washington, DC, a non-profit organization committed to brain injury victims and prevention, research, education, and advocacy.
Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed the Mississippi Youth Concussion Act into law yesterday, meaning that every state in the nation now has a youth sports concussion law.
The legislation, according to the NFL, “contains three core principles:
- Concussion education for young athletes and parents
- Immediate removal of an athlete suspected of sustaining a concussion or brain injury
- Mandatory clearance of the athlete by an appropriate health care provider – including a licensed physician, a licensed nurse practitioner or licensed physician assistant, who is trained in the evaluation and management of concussions – before returning to practice or competition.”
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said passage of the Act, which applies to school-sponsored/interscholastic sports in Grades 7 through 12, is “an important moment for all young athletes and their parents. During a week when all eyes are on the football field, we congratulate Mississippi leaders on helping to protect young players, no matter what sport they play. We will continue to focus on making our game better and safer and setting the right example for all athletes when it comes to health and safety.”