Senators Udall, Nelson Urge FTC to Investigate Concussion Prevention Claims Used to Sell Soccer Headgear

Today, U.S. Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) called on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate potentially misleading safety claims used to sell soccer headgear. The FTC enforces federal consumer protection laws that prevent fraud, deception and unfair business practices. The senators asked that the FTC take action if the investigation findings reveal that makers of soccer headgear or other children’s sports safety equipment are engaged in false or deceptive advertising practices.

In a letter to the FTC Chairwoman, the senators outlined their concerns that some sports equipment marketers and manufacturers may be taking advantage of parents’ and athletes’ concerns about sports-related concussions by advertising soccer headgear with unsupported claims about preventing head injuries.

“With the Women’s World Cup underway, there is growing awareness of the risk of concussions in soccer. In fact, for female athletes, soccer has one of the highest concussion rates among high school and college sports,” the senators wrote. “Although the benefits of sports far outweigh the risks for almost everyone, sports-related concussions do represent a significant health concern.”

The senators continue, “Given these risks, it is not surprising that many parents today seek out sports gear that offers the best protection for their children. And, as soccer players of all ages and their parents watch the World Cup over the next few weeks, they likely will notice that some players wear headgear. Unfortunately, some sports equipment makers seem to be taking advantage of the public’s concerns about concussions.”

An extensive National Academy of Sciences report, Sports-Related Concussions in Youth: Improving the Science, Changing the Culture, previously found that there is a lack of scientific evidence that protective devices designed for youth athletes, such as headbands for soccer, reduce concussion risk.

The senators cite several sports equipment makers’ specific claims that seem to imply the products reduce the risk of concussion, despite a lack of evidence to support these claims. “The use of seemingly unsubstantiated marketing claims for soccer headgear is especially concerning since athletes may use these products in ways that actually lead to increased injury risk,” the senators wrote.

In 2012, the FTC warned nearly 20 sports equipment manufacturers that they might be making deceptive protection concussion claims, but the FTC’s actions thus far have not deterred companies from continuing to make such claims. Udall introduced the Youth Sports Concussion Act of 2013 to allow the FTC to seek civil penalties in such cases, and also warned about the dangers of deceptive marketing campaigns in a U.S. Senate Commerce Committee hearing earlier this month.

The full text of the letter is available HERE.