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Young athletes need protection from concussions

A Senate bill would create stronger safety standards for athletic gear

Published: May 2013

For many young athletes, the end of school signals the start of summer sports leagues and even practices for the upcoming fall season. Unfortunately, the helmets that baseball, football, and lacrosse players wear might be old or in poor condition, putting these athletes at risk for concussion.

The numbers are staggering: Sports are the second-leading cause of traumatic brain injury for 15- to 24-year-olds, behind only motor-vehicle crashes. In addition, 300,000 concussions were diagnosed in high school athletes from 2011 to 2012 alone.

We’ve written previously about the need for stronger safety standards in athletic gear, especially for children and teenagers, whose brains are still developing and who might be more vulnerable to the effects of a concussion.

With this in mind, Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, endorsed legislation introduced this month by Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.), chairman of the Commerce Committee, and Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.). The Youth Sports Concussion Act would allow the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to use the findings of a study by the National Academies of Science to create safety standards if the agency believes those standards are necessary.

The legislation would also tackle marketing claims on sporting equipment that could mislead consumers into thinking the products can completely prevent concussions. This legislation would give the Federal Trade Commission authority to take action against false or misleading claims, with a goal of promoting greater accuracy in the information that consumers rely on when buying sports equipment.

All sports come with risk, and there’s no way to totally prevent injury in high-contact sports such as football. But we’re hopeful that legislative and regulatory steps will help ensure that young athletes have the latest and safest equipment available as they take the field.

This feature is part of a regular series by Consumers Union, the public-policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports. The nonprofit organization advocates for product safety, financial reform, safer food, health reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.

Read other installments of our Policy & Action feature.

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