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From Products Liability Law Daily, May 23, 2013

Senate Introduces Legislation to Protect Youth Athletes from Future Concussions

By Joseph Bichl

In an effort to protect youth athletes from sports-related concussions, the Senate introduced a bill (S. 1014) that seeks to improve equipment safety standards as well as curb false advertising claims (U.S. Sen. Tom Udall News Release, May 22, 2013; The Youth Sports Concussion Act (S. 1014), The measure’s intention, according to bill sponsor Sen. Tom Udall, is to ensure that safety standards for sports equipment are up to date and informed by the latest science. The bill would also increase potential penalties for using false injury prevention claims to sell youth sports equipment.

Background. In October of 2012, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) formed a committee to determine the best way to protect youth athletes from sports-related traumatic brain injuries. During the 2011-2012 school year, more than 300,000 high school athletes in the most common sports were diagnosed with concussions, NAS found. Although those numbers appear striking, still many head injuries go unreported and untreated, according to NAS. Furthermore, researchers reported that children and adolescents were particularly susceptible to concussions.

Another compelling reason for writing this legislation resulted from a Senate Commerce Committee hearing which uncovered that sports equipment manufacturers have repeatedly made claims that their equipment "prevents concussions" or "reduces the risk of concussions" without scientific evidence to back them up.

Incident statistics. Government statistics revealed that sports are the second leading cause of traumatic brain injury for people who are 15 to 24 years old, behind only motor vehicle crashes. Every year American athletes suffer up to an estimated 3.8 million sports-related concussions. New medical research indicated that repeated blows to the head in numerous sports may lead to lasting brain damage, including Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, also known as "punch drunk syndrome."

Bill’s provisions. According to bill sponsor Udall, The Youth Sports Concussion Act would direct the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to review the findings of a forthcoming NAS report on sports-related concussions in youth; authorize CPSC to make recommendations to manufacturers and, if necessary, write new safety standards for protective equipment based on the findings of the NAS report; and, finally, the bill would allow the Federal Trade Commission to impose civil penalties for using false claims to sell protective gear for sports.

The measure was referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

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