“Concussion-proof” Football Helmets may be Misleading & Dangerous says NYS AG

NYS Attorney General Eric Schneiderman

NYS Attorney General Eric Schneiderman

Last week, New York State’s Attorney General Eric Schneiderman released a statement essentially debunking the myth that football helmets can prevent concussions.  He even went a step further and offered the power of his office to help people who may have been duped by false advertising related to helmets and the ever-increasing number of “add ons” that manufacturers claim will help.

 “Any claims suggesting that a particular helmet is “anti-concussive” or “concussion-proof” may be misleading and potentially dangerous by giving players and parents a false sense of security.”

In his official statement he makes several points.  In effect, he used the very robust state Concussion Management and Awareness Act that went into effect in June 2012 to bolster the following statements:

Players, parents and coaches must be trained to see the symptoms and risks of concussion.

  • It is extremely important to recognize the signs of concussion and remove the player immediately from the game.

  • New York State law requires that players be removed from play until they are asymptomatic for a minimum of 24 hours and have written approval from their physician to return to play.

  • The number of concussions can be significantly reduced with modifications to practice format – such as learning to avoid head-on “collisions” on the field of play.

  • Reducing the number of hits is instrumental to reducing the risk of concussion because of the cumulative risk from repeated hits. Limit the amount of contact in practice and forbid drills that involve full-speed, head-on blocking and tackling that begins with players lined up more than three yards apart.

  • Players need to be trained to focus on techniques that minimize head-to-head hits. Coaches and referees must strictly enforce penalties against such behavior.

It is refreshing to see someone of the stature and at the level of the State AG come out and protect consumers and our youth.  The writing should be on the wall as the number of lawsuits against the NFL, NCAA, helmet manufacturers and others begin to mount.  I am afraid it’s only a matter of time before the state’s schools, athletic departments, and recreation leagues take a hit as well.  Questions that might generate such a lawsuit:

“Why did you invest in expensive helmets that we know are useless?”

“Why are you not changing and adapting practice and play techniques to be current with known risks?”

“Why did you buy gizmos and gadgets with our restricted budget when there is no evidence that they are effective?”

“Why didn’t you sit out my daughter when she clearly had signs of a concussion?”

“Did you really think it couldn’t be a concussion because she was wearing a helmet?”

Says Schneiderman: “Ensuring that manufacturers don’t mislead the public and endanger young New Yorkers is a key concern for my office. 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.”

Holding those in positions of responsibility to account is, in my opinion, government working at its best.

And then the final zinger in the last line of the attorney general’s statement should really make those with commercial interests in brain injury sit up and listen:

“If you feel you’ve been a victim of this type of situation or any other type of consumer fraud, contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Helpline at 1-800-771-7755.”