FTC Looks at Football Helmet Safety Claims

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Helmet safety has caught the attention of the Federal Trade Commission, which is looking into marketing claims that some football helmets can help reduce concussions. Recent months have seen widespread publicity about concussions and other traumatic head and neck injuries suffered by football players, prompting the National Football League to step up enforcement of rules against illegal hits. Pressure on the FTC to investigate possibly deceptive and misleading safety claims increased last month when Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) sent a letter to the FTC chairman claiming that advertisements by two prominent helmet manufacturers could violate the FTC Act.

In his letter to the FTC, Udall specifically cited Riddell, a leading helmet manufacturer that supplies the official helmet to the NFL, for the prominent claim on its website that its popular Revolution models decrease concussion risk by 31 percent. This figure has long been criticized because new Revolution helmets had been compared with used helmets of unknown age and condition. Udall claims that “there is actually very little scientific evidence” to support the claim that “research shows a 31 percent reduction in the risk of concussion in players wearing a Riddell Revolution football helmet when compared to traditional helmets.” According to Udall, the voluntary industry standard for football helmets does not specifically address concussion prevention or reduction.

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