WASHINGTON, D.C. – At aTuesday hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee, U.S. Sen. Tom Udall called on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to crack down on deceptive and dangerous claims by manufacturers that their youth sports gear can prevent head injuries.
Udall has led efforts in Congress to curb false advertising by manufacturers and improve safety standards for sports equipment. A National Academies of Sciences report has found little evidence to support claims that many helmets and headgear used by youth football and soccer players can protect against concussion.
In the past, Udall has highlighted marketing by headgear makers in particular, which may actually give athletes a false sense of safety and lead them to take risks that put them in greater danger. And during today’s hearing, he raised concern about the company Shock Doctor, which makes a mouth guard it claims can protect against concussions. Udall pressed FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez about whether this kind of “anti-concussion” marketing constitutes a deceptive practice, and secured a commitment from her that she will investigate.
A leading mouth guard for youth sports, Shock Doctor is the official mouth guard of USA Football, and sponsor of its concussion-awareness program, “Heads Up Football.”
“Approximately 1 million young athletes are enrolled in Heads Up Football, so I am deeply concerned by Shock Doctor’s false claim that its mouth guards prevent concussions…. I’m quoting right here from this product — it promises it will ‘absorb shock to help protect against brain concussions.’ It promises ‘hard-core protection’ and ‘fearless performance,'” Udall said, citing Shock Doctor’s packaging and advertisements. Click here to see examples of Shock Doctor’s marketing claims.
“Concussion experts warn this is dangerous — it puts kids at greater risk of injury, including permanent brain damage from second impact syndrome,” Udall told Ramirez.
The FTC previously reached a settlement with mouthguard marketer Brain-Pad, which bars that company from using unsupported claims that their mouth guards reduce the risk of concussions. And Ramirez responded to Udall that similar claims by Shock Doctor and others should be examined. “I absolutely agree that this is a very serious issue…. (I’m) absolutely concerned about deceptive claims that lack substantiation. I appreciate you bringing this particular issue to my attention, and I assure you that we will take a very close look,” she said.
A supporter of youth sports and an advocate for consumer protection since he served as New Mexico’s attorney general, Udall has long worked to ensure parents, coaches and athletes have the information they need to make well-informed decisions about safety. Last year, he called on the FTC to investigate potentially misleading claims used to sell soccer headgear, and he successfully included provisions in the omnibus appropriations measure to help protect youth athletes from the dangers of sports-related traumatic brain injury.