Senator Seeks Football Helmet Probe

U.S. Senator Tom Udall (Democrat-New Mexico) has asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to probe “misleading safety claims and deceptive practices” concerning the sale of <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/product_liability">new and reconditioned used football helmets, The Associated Press (AP) reported.

The AP obtained a letter from the senator to FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz stating that companies that manufacture and recondition helmets “appear to be using misleading advertising claims” and “some helmet reconditioning companies may be falsely selling used helmets as meeting an industry safety standard.” Udall wrote that he is “troubled by misleading marketing claims by Riddell, a leading helmet maker that supplies the official helmet to the National Football League,” quoted the AP.

The senator included a quote from Riddell’s website that states “research shows a 31 percent reduction in the risk of concussion in players wearing a Riddell Revolution football helmet when compared to traditional helmets,” wrote the AP. Udall pointed out, “Yet there is actually very little scientific evidence to support the claim,” the AP quoted.

The letter, first reported by The New York Times, said the AP, also includes a reference by Udall concerning what he described as “misleading safety claims used in online video advertisements for helmets,” in which he pointed to Riddell and Schutt Sports.

“After reviewing Senator Udall’s letter to the Federal Trade Commission, we believe his statements and allegations are unfounded and unfair,” Riddell CEO Dan Arment said in a statement emailed to the AP. “Riddell has consistently maintained a policy of transparency with all of our research and products and participated in any helmet test when requested. Riddell has exceeded all of the industry standards and conducts and submits to more rigorous testing than most companies in other industries,” Arment continued, wrote the AP. According to a Schutt Sports spokesman, said the AP, Schutt Sports said it was aware of the letter but declined comment.

Udall is looking specifically at helmets used by young children, and the products’ “concussion safety” advertisements, said KTSM. “I am concerned for our young football players and their safety,” Udall said in a statement, quoted KTSM. “I hope football helmet makers improve their products to address concussion risks,” Udall added.

This November, Udall requested the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) investigate the adequacy of football helmets in protecting players from concussion, said the AP, which noted that Udall serves on the Senate Commerce Committee, which has CPSC oversight.

Of note, NFL, NCAA, and high school football helmets must pass a test developed by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE); however, quoted the AP, the NOCSAE website says it establishes “voluntary test standards”; that “manufacturers test their own helmets”; and that “NOCSAE does not possess a surveillance force to ensure compliance with the standards.”

“NOCSAE and the National Athletic Equipment Reconditioning Association (NAERA) do not conduct market surveillance or follow up testing of helmets to ensure compliance with their certifications. Moreover, there is no standard for how often used helmets must be recertified. Such potentially dangerous used helmets are commonly worn by players at all levels of football,” said Udall, quoted the AP.

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