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Super Bowl focuses attention on improving football-helmet safety

More than 100,000 concussions were diagnosed among high-school players in one school year

Published: February 2013

Whether you’re a devoted supporter of the Baltimore Ravens or San Francisco 49ers, a casual fan with a few dollars riding in the office pool, or someone who’s just looking forward to chowing down at a Super Bowl party, it’s hard not to admire the talented, dedicated football players who’ll leave it all on the field at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday, February 3.

But recent studies focusing on the long-term impact of repeated concussions and head injuries that come with the sport have experts and fans (including President Obama) concerned that football players at every level are leaving too much on the field. The sobering reality is that more than 100,000 concussions were diagnosed among high-school football players in the 2009-2010 school year. That’s why we at Consumers Union believe improved helmet safety is so important.

The National Football League and National Collegiate Athletic Association have both made efforts to minimize concussions through new guidelines and safety programs. But more still remains to be understood about the effects of concussions and how to better prevent them on the field.

We were pleased when Senator Tom Udall introduced the Children’s Sports Athletic Equipment Safety Act in the last session of Congress. Representative Bill Pascrell introduced the same bill in the House of Representatives. The bills aim to strengthen the voluntary safety standards for kids' and teens' football helmets. We endorsed these bills, and we hope they’ll be reintroduced and passed in the new session of Congress that just got under way.

It’s also encouraging to see federal agencies working together with the NFL, NCAA, and other private organizations to tackle this safety issue. In May, the Youth Football Safety and Helmet Partnership launched its pilot program for youth in underserved communities. The initiative will remove helmets that are 10 years old or older and replace them with new helmets at no cost and will provide coaches with the latest educational information. Consumer Product Safety Commission Chair Inez Tenenbaum initiated the effort.

We’ll keep up our efforts to improve helmet safety and make sure that our favorite football players—whether peewee or professional—have the best protection on the field.

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