U.S. Representative Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09), co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force, was joined by Rep. Tom Rooney (R-FL) today in introducing bipartisan legislation aimed at protecting youth athletes from the dangers of sports-related traumatic brain injuries. The Youth Sports Concussion Act of 2013 would ensure that new and reconditioned football helmets for high school and younger players meet safety standards that address concussion risk and the needs of youth athletes. The bill also increases potential penalties for using false injury prevention claims to sell helmets and other sports equipment. Companion legislation was also introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM).
"The dangers multiple concussions pose to our young athletes is well known, so it's imperative we do everything possible to protect them on the playing field," said Rep. Pascrell. "I've fought to ensure there are resources available to young athletes that sustain a brain injury, and this legislation will bring us one step closer to preventing these devastating injuries to begin with. The only thing standing between athletes and serious injury is their equipment, which is why manufactures must be held to the highest possible standard. We cannot jeopardize the health and safety of our young athletes by allowing inferior equipment into their locker rooms."
"As a father of three sons who can't wait to play tackle football, I want to do everything we can to protect young people from suffering head injuries on the field," Rooney said. "We can't completely eliminate the risks of playing youth sports, but we can make sure that helmets and other equipment meet the highest safety standards for our kids."
Although football helmet safety technology has improved since the days of leather helmets, today's helmet safety standards may not be informed by current understanding of concussion risks. For example, the current industry standard primarily protects against serious injury from a severe, direct blow. However, it does not specifically address the risk of a concussion caused by less severe impacts or by rotational acceleration resulting from hits that spin the head and brain. The standard for reconditioning used football helmets also does not specify how often old helmets must be recertified.
The Youth Sports Concussion Act of 2013 sets a deadline, nine months after enactment, for improvements by industry groups to the voluntary standard for football helmets. If that deadline is not met, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) must set mandatory football helmet standards to protect children's safety.
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. More than one million American high school students play football, including nearly 8,000 high school students in New Mexico.
Rep. Pascrell has been raising awareness of traumatic brain injury dangers and treatments for 13 years, including the passage of his Concussion Treatment and Care Tools (ConTACT) Act, which provides for national protocols to be established for managing sports-related concussions.
In March, Rep. Pascrell hosted the 12th Annual Brain Injury Awareness Day on Capitol Hill, a conference that educates Members of Congress and their staffs on the full range of effects of brain injury, the challenges and recoveries of persons living with brain injury, and the services and supports available to them.
Supporters of the Youth Sports Concussion Act of 2013 include: NFL, NFL Players Association, Major League Baseball, MLB Players Association, NBA, NHL, NCAA, Major League Soccer (MLS) Players Union, American Academy of Neurology, American Academy of Pediatrics, Brain Injury Association of America, Brain Trauma Foundation, Cleveland Clinic, Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, Natl. Consumers League, Safe Kids USA, Natl. Assoc. of State Head Injury Administrators, Natl. Athletic Trainers Association, Natl. Fed. of State High School Associations (NFHS), NOCSAE, US Lacrosse and US Soccer Federation.