Congressman Bill Pascrell

Representing the 9th District of NEW JERSEY

Committee Hears Testimony on Pascrell's Youth Sports Concussion Act

May 24, 2016
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-09) reacted to consideration of the Youth Sports Concussion Act, bipartisan legislation aimed at protecting young athletes from the dangers of sports-related traumatic brain injuries. The bill, H.R. 4460, was heard today by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce's Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade. The Senate version of the legislation authored by Senator Udall (D-NM) was passed out of the Senate Commerce Committee in April and is awaiting action on the Senate floor.

“Despite some sports leagues keeping their heads in the sand, we are learning more and more every day about traumatic brain injury and other side effects, regardless of the fact that. Contact sports have dangerous side effects on participants and when the participants are children with still-developing minds and bodies, the dangers can be exaggerated,” said Pascrell, co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force. “The federal government must crack down on false advertising and ensure our kids’ sports equipment is not being misrepresented as safe. The minds of the next generation are on the line, so the stakes are high and we need action.”

Among the testimony heard today by the Energy and Commerce subcommittee (video and documents here), was Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Edith Ramirez.

“H.R. 4460, the Youth Sports Concussions Act, would give the FTC civil penalty authority, and authorize actions by states, to address the importation and sale of sports equipment for which the importer or seller has made deceptive safety benefit claims. The Commission shares the Subcommittee’s concerns about deceptive concussion protection and other safety benefit claims for sports equipment. Claims that implicate serious health concerns – especially those potentially affecting children and young adults – are always a high priority for the Commission,” Ramirez said. “Given the dangers that concussions and other injuries pose for athletes, it is essential that advertising for products claiming safety benefits be truthful and substantiated. Using its existing authority, the Commission has been active in this area. For example, in 2012, the agency settled allegations that mouthguard manufacturer Brain-Pad and its president made false and unproven claims that Brain-Pad mouthguards reduced the risk of concussions. Following that case, the FTC sent warning letters to almost thirty sports equipment manufacturers and five retailers, advising them of the case and warning them that they also might be making deceptive concussion protection claims. The agency also investigated three major football helmet manufacturers – Riddell Sports, Schutt Sports, and Xenith – in connection with their claims that their helmets reduced the risk of concussions. In these matters, the staff closed the investigations without taking formal action, by which time all three companies had discontinued potentially deceptive claims from their advertising or had agreed to do so. H.R. 4460 would provide additional tools to protect consumers from such claims.” (testimony)

Another witness was Dr. Gregory O’Shanick, Medical Director of the Center for Neurorehabilitation Services in Richmond, Virginia.

"The Youth Sports Concussion Act would help ensure that safety standards for sports equipment are based on the latest science and curb false advertising claims made by manufacturers to increase protective sports gear sales. 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," Dr. O’Shanick said. "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." (testimony)

The Youth Sports Concussion Act (bill) would help ensure that safety standards for sports equipment, including football helmets, are based on the latest science and curb false advertising claims made to increase protective sports gear sales. Sports are the second-leading cause of traumatic brain injuries for youth 15-24 years old, and athletes suffer up to 3.8 million concussions every year. An extensive National Academy of Sciences report, Sports-Related Concussions in Youth: Improving the Science, Changing the Culture, previously found that there is 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 been an effective deterrent. The Youth Sports Concussion Act would empower the FTC to seek civil penalties in such cases.

Rep. Pascrell has been raising awareness of traumatic brain injury dangers and treatments for more than 15 years, including the House passage of his Concussion Treatment and Care Tools (ConTACT) Act, which provides for national protocols to be established for managing sports-related concussions. The ConTACT Act directs CDC to convene a conference of medical, athletic, and education stakeholders to establish model concussion management guidelines; and authorizes grants to states to establish, disseminate, and implement concussion management guidelines for school-sponsored sports and fund schools' implementation of baseline and post-concussion neuropsychological testing technologies. While the bill was blocked in the Senate, Congressman Pascrell was successful in urging CDC to establish the Pediatric Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Expert Panel, which is in the process of drafting concussion management guidelines that are expected in 2016.

Numerous sports, medical and consumer organizations have supported the Youth Sports Concussion Act, including:

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
Major League Baseball Players Association
Major League Soccer
Major League Soccer Players Union
National Association of State Head Injury Administrators
National Athletic Trainers' Association
National Basketball Association
National Collegiate Athletic Association
National Consumers League
National Federation of State High School Associations
National Football League
National Football League Players Association
National Hockey League
National Hockey League Players’ Association
National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association
National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment
Safe Kids Worldwide
United States Brain Injury Alliance
US Lacrosse
US Soccer Federation
USA Hockey
Xenith