Washington, D.C. -- On Tuesday, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (New Mexico) called on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to take a stronger stance against manufacturers that make bogus and deceptive claims that their youth sports gear can prevent head injuries, primarily concussions. Udall made his comments during a hearing of the Senate’s Commerce Committee.

“Unfortunately, some irresponsible sports equipment makers falsely claim that their products protect against head injuries,” Udall said. “And that may give players a false sense of safety – and lead them to take risks. Concussion experts warn that this is dangerous. It puts kids at greater risk of injury, including permanent brain damage from “second impact syndrome.” 

During Tuesday’s hearing, Udall secured a commitment from FTC Chairwomen Edith Ramirez that her agency would further investigate false and misleading “anti-concussion” claims made by manufacturers.

Full press release from Senator Udall’s website.

In the past, Udall has led efforts in Congress to curb false advertising by manufacturers, and has specifically highlighted marketing by headgear makers. During Tuesday’s hearing, Udall expanded his concerns to include unsupported safety claims made by manufacturers of all sports gear, including mouth guards.

“When it comes to sports products that prevent concussions, it is understandable that parents and players want to buy such products,” Udall said. “But the National Academies (of Science) report found that there is no scientific evidence to support claims that sports gear – such as mouth guards and soccer head bands – reduce the risk of concussion.”

US Lacrosse has long advocated for a holistic approach to game safety, focused on sport-specific education and training, rules and equipment. Equipment interventions alone are not the answer.

“Senator Udall is correct in that there is very little scientific evidence to suggest that mouthpieces, headgear and helmets reduce the risk of concussions,” said Dr. Bruce Griffin, director of the Center for Sport Science at US Lacrosse.

At Udall’s urging, the FTC has previously sent warning letters to sports equipment makers and retailers about false and misleading advertising claims.   

Earlier this year, the Senate Commerce Committee approved the Youth Sports Concussion Act, co-sponsored by Udall, which would increase potential FTC penalties on manufacturers for unscrupulous advertising. Udall continues to advocate to have this bill signed into law.

“It is past time to put an end to dangerous “anti-concussion” marketing claims for youth sports gear,” Udall said. “We absolutely want to encourage young people to play sports. But we want them to do so safely.”