U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) is leaning on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to closely monitor the claims of sports equipment makers that suggest, or blatantly claim, that their products can prevent concussions.
Udall asked FTC chairwoman Edith Ramirez to examine the claims of the company Shock Doctor, last week. The company provides the official mouthguard of NFL-backed USA Football and advertised on its website that its mouthguard “Absorbs shock to help protect against brain concussions” and “shock absorbing jaw pads help protect against concussions.” Those ads have since been removed.
Chairwoman Ramirez responded to Udall’s request by saying, “I assure you that we will take a very close look.”
Udall, along with Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) drafted a letter in June 2015 asking the FTC to conduct an investigation into companies making allegedly false claims regarding their headgear’s ability to prevent head injuries in soccer.
Five major retailers were warned by the FTC in 2014, to address claims made concerning mouthguards that they carried. Prior to that warning, the FTC issued warnings to 18 companies regarding mouthguard claims. One company, Brain-Pad, settled charges to stop its anti-concussion claims, as did helmet maker Riddell.
On Sept 27, before a Senate Commerce Committee hearing, Udall voiced his frustration saying, “It is past time to put an end to these dangerous ‘anti-concussion’ marketing claims for youth sports gear.” Earlier he has accused some, without naming specific companies, of making false marketing claims and ignoring government actions.
In 2014, an assistant director of the FTC told a U.S. House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee, “The Committee plans to continue monitoring the market for products making these claims to ensure that advertisers do not mislead consumers about their products capabilities or about the science underlying them. “
“At the same time, we are mindful of the need to tread carefully, so as to avoid inadvertently chilling research or impeding the development of technologies and products that truly do provide concussion protection.”
Recent Studies Show Benefits as Questionable
A recent review found that up until now, little or no evidence has been found that mouthguards, soccer headgear or other protective equipment prevent concussion. Gregory Meyer, PhD, and his team of researchers from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital wrote: “Protective equipment, including headgear, helmets, mouthguards and face shields, may play roles in reducing the incidence of concussion, but evidence from existing prospective studies indicates that the preventative effects of these items as a group may be limited.”
“The use of mouthguards in combination with helmets in sports such as football, where helmet use is already the norm, begs the question as to whether mouthguards (and consequently mouthguard type) are even relevant for concussion prevention. A need exists for closer and more rigorous examination of the mouthguard as a concussion prevention tool, with attention paid to mouthguard type and thickness and consideration given to the mechanism of injury in each sport studied.”
Dr. Meyer and his colleagues became more emphatic by stating that football helmets “do nothing to mitigate the effect of brain slosh. Therefore, in terms of concussion prevention, football helmet improvements may be reaching a point of diminishing returns and are not likely to be the solution to the concussion issue.”
Udall is the co-author of The Youth Sports Concussion Act, which allows the FTC to levy increased penalties for unsubstantiated concussion prevention claims. Early this year the bill passed the Senate Commerce Committee and Udall hopes it will soon become enacted. The bill is supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Neurology and the Cleveland Clinic in conjunction with the NBA and NFL.
If Your Child Was Injured Playing Sports
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