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N.Y. Attorney General Warns Against 'Concussion-Proof' Helmets

With football season now in full effect, New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is out to remind parents that there's no such thing as a "concussion-proof" football helmet.

The attorney general issued a consumer alert this month about particular helmets being advertised as reducing the risk of concussion. Despite certain manufacturers' claims to the contrary, the age and brand of a football helmet was not found to be associated with a reduced risk of concussion, according to a study presented this summer during the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine's annual meeting.

The study, which has yet to be published in a scientific journal, found that of the 115 high school football players who sustained a sports-related concussion, neither the age nor brand of the helmet they wore made a difference in the rate or severity of concussions.

Schneiderman emphasizes that last point in the consumer alert by saying, "Remember that no helmet can prevent a concussion." He also notes that head-impact research conducted on adult helmets can't necessarily be extrapolated to youth-football players, given the biological differences between adults and youths.

"Ensuring that manufacturers don't mislead the public and endanger young New Yorkers is a key concern for my office," said the attorney general in a statement. "Just as important, we must work to educate young athletes and their parents about how to reduce the risk of concussion and detect early warning signs on the field."

To that end, Schneiderman offered a few concrete suggestions on how to help protect youth-football players against sports-related concussions, including:

  • Ensuring that players, parents, and coaches are trained on the symptoms and risks of concussions;
  • Removing immediately from play any youth-athlete suspected of having sustained a concussion; and
  • Limiting the amount of full-contact practices allowed.

The last recommendation, about limiting full-contact practices, is either in the works or has already been enacted in at least three other states. Earlier this year, the Arizona Interscholastic Association became the first high school association to set a limit on the amount of contact allowed at football practices, and Texas' University Interscholastic League did the same in June. The Maryland education department issued similar recommendations in August.

On the concussion-proof helmet: This isn't the first time football-helmet manufacturers were called out for making potentially bogus claims about their products. Back in 2011, U.S. Sen. Tom Udall asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate two helmet manufacturers for false and misleading claims.

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