Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Representative Bill Pascrell (D- N.J.) have introduced legislation (S. 601/H.R.1127) that would strengthen safety standards for new and reconditioned youth football helmets. Designed to protect the country’s 4.5 million youth and high school football players from the dangers of sports-related brain injuries, the Children’s Sports Athletic Equipment Safety Act also “increases potential penalties for using false injury prevention claims to sell helmets and other sports equipment,” according to the lawmakers.

Noting that football helmet safety technology “has improved since the days of leather helmets,” Pascrell said that current standards primarily protect against serious injury from severe, direct blows and not those caused by less severe impacts or by “rotational acceleration resulting from hits that spin the head and brain.” As co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force, Pascrell also noted that standards for reconditioned used football helmets were lax because they did not specify how often the helmets must be recertified.

Although the bill does not set an age limit for helmets or require professional reconditioning, it would require clear risk warning labels that indicate when new helmets were manufactured or when used ones were reconditioned. It would mandate that the Federal Trade Commission impose civil fines on manufacturers making false or misleading claims and would empower state attorneys general to sue companies that violate the bill.

“This isn’t just an issue about football,” Udall told a news source. “We have all sorts of athletic equipment that is out there to fulfill the role of safety or protection. So it seems to me if you have a headband or a mouth guard, the same set of issues come up—misrepresentation issues.” See The New York Times, March 15, 2011; Representative Bill Pascrell and Senator Tom Udall Press Releases, March 16, 2011.