FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 28, 2011
SCHUMER PUSHES LEGISLATION TO IMPROVE HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL HELMET SAFETY STANDARDS, HELP CUT DOWN ON CONCUSSIONS AMONG CENTRAL NY YOUTH
Today, at the Christian Brothers Academy football field in Syracuse, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced his support for new legislation to boost safety on high school football fields by improving safety standards for youth football helmets. The Children’s Sports Athletic Equipment Safety Act sets a deadline, nine months after enactment of the bill, for improvements to the current voluntary safety standard for football helmets. These new standards will specifically address four elements: concussion risk, design for youth helmets, standards for reconditioned helmets, and placement of clearly visible warning labels. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) will review current standards for the four elements and draw upon their expertise to determine whether those voluntary standards are adequate to protect safety of our youth athletes. If not, then the CPSC must issue mandatory safety rules for football helmets. These regulations would not require school districts or parents of football players to purchase new helmets, but rather would establish stricter guidelines for helmets being produced in the future. The bill is supported by a diverse coalition, including the Brain Injury Association of America, the Consumers Union, and the National Football League (NFL) Players Association.
“With concussions on the rise amongst our young athletes, there is not a moment to spare when it comes to stricter safety standards for the helmets that Syracuse players wear on the field each day,” said Schumer. “Hall of Famers and parents all agree- whether it’s for a short practice or the big game, we need to know that all new helmets being produced are meeting the highest standards. That is why I’m urging the Consumer Product Safety Commission to get in the game and help adequately protect youth players’ health in Central New York, throughout the state and the rest of the county.”
Schumer was joined by CBA Athletic staff, as well as members and coaches from the football team as he announced his support of a bill that would ensure that new and reconditioned football helmets for high school and younger players meet new safety standards that address concussion risk, and other critical needs of youth football players. The legislation also benefits consumers and parents by increasing civil penalties for false advertising. Schumer’s support of this legislation to establish tough football helmet standards comes in light of the rising rate of concussions and the growing evidence of their health risks, especially among young athletes, and following a high school football season during which a player from Phoenix passed away after a helmet to helmet collision.
Ridge Barden died after suffering a subdural hemotama, bleeding from the brain, after a helmet to helmet hit during an October game. While experts say it is unlikely that different padding could have prevented the injury, Schumer noted that tougher standards for football helmets could lead to new and innovative research that would help protect youth athletes from brain injuries. While football will always be a dangerous game that includes injuries, Schumer noted that the hundreds of thousands of concussions suffered on high school football fields this year demand upgrades to safety standards for helmets.
The Children’s Sports Athletic Equipment Safety Act comes in light of the fact that there are no federal guidelines for both new and used helmets that formally test against the forces believed to cause concussions. Most disturbingly, there is no voluntary industry safety standard specifically for youth football helmets worn by children, who have different physiological characteristics from adults in terms of head size and neck strength, especially those who are younger than 12 years old. The industry, which has no governmental or independent oversight, requires players’ helmets to withstand only the extremely high-level force that would otherwise fracture skulls. This standard has not changed significantly since it was written in 1973. Schumer points out that this is particularly alarming given rising concussion rates in youth football, and improved awareness of the short and long-term negative results, such as memory loss, depression, and impaired cognitive function, that this can cause.
An additional concern is reconditioned football helmets, which are often used by our nation’s high school teams. Some used helmet reconditioners have falsely certified that reconditioned helmets provided to schools and youth football teams met voluntary industry safety standards. In addition, used helmet reconditioners do not independently test reconditioned helmets before certifying that they meet voluntary industry safety standards. S. 601 would establish a new standard for reconditioned helmets, so that parents and teams could eliminate helmets that won’t protect players.
Football has the highest incidence of concussions of all sports that children and teenagers participate. About 4.4 million children play football in organized leagues in the United States, with about 1 million of them participating in high school football. In any given football season, about 20% of high school players suffer brain injuries, but there is no current requirement or voluntary industry standard for football helmets that specifically addresses concussion risk and the needs of youth football players. These estimated 500,000 head injuries sustained annually have become a serious health concern in football across the U.S., leading to rule changes and state legislation to establish treatment protocols for youth athletes in all sports. Schumer also points to a report from the New York Times, which claims that helmet manufacturers have been deceptive in their helmet advertising and have occasionally lapsed in helmet-testing protocol.
The Children’s Sports Athletic Equipment Safety Act is supported by medical professionals and professional football players alike. Some of those supporters include: American Academy of Neurology, Brain Injury Association of America, Brain Trauma Foundation, The Cleveland Clinic, Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, the National Consumers League, the National Football League Players Association, the National Association of State Head Injury Administrators, the National Research Center for Women & Families, and more.