Udall and Rockefeller Hold Hearing

The Commerce Committee held a hearing on sports equipment labeled as “anti-concussion” or concussion prevention technology.  The issue is not that some products make the claim but there is no independent research to back up any of the claims.  I believe that this is an important issue, one we have highlighted regarding mouthguards previously.

Here is the press release;

WASHINGTON, D.C.—At a Commerce Committee hearing today, Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller and Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) highlighted two important points about sports concussions that are often overlooked: that concussions are a serious problem even for young athletes; and that sports equipment is often marketed as “anti-concussion” without sufficient proof.

“We now understand that this is not an injury only NFL players can suffer.  And it’s not just a football problem either,” Rockefeller said.  “More than 10,000 high school girl soccer players sustain concussions each year.  What’s even more troubling is that sports equipment manufacturers are exploiting our growing concerns about sports concussions to market so-called ‘anti-concussion’ products to athletes and their parents.  The American public has a lot of legitimate questions about the risk of concussions in sports and they deserve honest answers.”

“Concussions used to be dismissed as simply ‘dings’ or ‘bell ringers’, but science has taught us that they are a form of traumatic brain injury that should be taken seriously.  Today’s hearing allowed us to focus on the many risks associated with concussions and the steps we can take to raise awareness.  It also proved that no sports equipment can prevent all concussions, despite any advertising claims to the contrary,” Udall said.

Key Highlights from Today’s Hearing:

  • Experts report that Americans suffer millions of sports-related concussions each year and that a significant percentage of those suffering concussions are children and high school students participating in sports.
  • According to a recent report published in the journal for the American Academy of Pediatrics, girls’ soccer ranked behind only boys’ football for the rates of concussion for students participating in high school sports.
  • As experts have become more aware of the dangers of concussions for young athletes, states, amateur sports leagues, and health organizations, have taken steps to ensure parents, coaches, trainers, and the athletes themselves better understand both the symptoms of concussions and the precautions they can take.

As athletes’ and parents’ awareness of the concussion issue has increased, so have the number of products marketed to them as “anti-concussion” or “concussion reducing.”  These products include helmets, mouth guards, headbands, and oral supplements.  While some of these products are important pieces of safety equipment in their own right, especially helmets and mouth guards, doctors have questioned whether scientific evidence supports the claims made related to concussions.

Not only was there “experts” in the hearing, Steven Threet – former Arizona State University quarterback, testified about how technology did not make a difference in his four concussions;

“There is a misunderstanding about concussion prevention and treatment” among athletes and the public, Threet testified at the hearing. “If a helmet could guarantee protection from concussions, I would still be playing football.”

As always it is buyer beware, but remember that no product can prevent concussions at this point.  And even though getting a concussion is a problem the major issue is how we manage the injury.


8 thoughts on “Udall and Rockefeller Hold Hearing

  1. Louis Memoli October 20, 2011 / 11:22

    I was able to watch most of the Senate hearing on C-Span. It is true that there was a focused discussion about products claiming to prevent concussion without any scientific basis. But there was a lot more that came out of the hearing…

    The witness panel was comprised of two former student athletes who retired from sports due to multiple concussions, two physicians who are deeply involved with studying concussions, and the Exec. Director of the National Standards Committee for athletic equipment. All gave excellent testimony and were able to respond to the committee members’ questions. Of particular note were the statements made by the two physicians. Dr. McKee is a neuropathologist who has studied (post-mortem) brains of former athletes of all ages noting the kinds of biochemical changes that occur from concussions. Dr. Kutcher is currently assembling all of the scientific literature that has been published on concussions. His work will be published early next year and will form the scientific ‘body of knowledge’ on the topic hopefully setting the direction of future scientific research on concussions. However, bottom line… there is nothing that will prevent a sports related concussion. No helmet, no matter how well designed, can prevent a concussion. There are no diagnostic tests or immediate medical interventions for concussion. Concussions are a part of competitive sports. Athletes are trained to play through pain… it is the nature of competitive sports is to be tough and invincible. Concussions have always been an invisible injury because they cannot be detected so players often ‘shake it off’ and continue to play… avoiding the stigma of being hurt. But concussion education for players, coaches, athletic directors, and parents is resulting in others being able to spot an injured player so that they can be pulled from the game and given medical attention. But is this enough? No.

    I firmly believe that a medical diagnosis can be achieved through imaging and/or lab tests. One of the witness physicians stated that concussions do not show up on CT or MRI scans. Can we develop a contrast media specific for concussive injury that will show up on a scan? What about molecular imaging? Are there biomarkers for a concussion? Can we develop lab tests on either blood or CSF that will determine the presence and severity of a concussion? And what about medical intervention following a concussive injury – first aid for a concussion? Currently there is not but studies have shown that controlled mild hypothermia can reduce the effects of a concussion and stop the chain of biochemical events that lead to PCS and CTE. I am convinced that we can find solutions to diagnosing and treating concussions. Awareness is the first step but funding for research and product development is key to this issue.

    Several companies have come up with products that are intended to treat concussion using mild hypothermia but thus far, none have been effective. Cooling the point of injury within the skull is the issue but a start-up company, Thermopraxis (www.thermopraxis.com), believes that they have a solution based on scientific studies that have been conducted by its physician/research founder. But like many start-up ventures, funding is extremely difficult to achieve in this economy. Investors need to be convinced that their investment will pay off. In the case of Thermopraxis, there are interested investors who are asking for endorsements from the athletic community stating that they would use the Thermopraxis product if it proves effective. I know that many athletic directors read this post so PLEASE, send a statement to Thermopraxis (address is on their website) expressing your interest in products that can treat concussions.
    But getting back to the Senate hearing… what will the Senators on this committee do now that they’ve heard convincing testimony regarding the prevalence and the serious consequences of concussions? What can they do – pass legislation? The solution will not come from government… it needs to come from the marketplace.

    Anyone reading this post connected to the investment community? We need to sensitize the investment community that there are answers to be found and that there is a market for products that diagnose and treat concussions.

    Any politicians out there? How about making this a public health priority… children, teens and their families are your constituents in the communities you serve… military personnel are constituents in the communities you serve… as are college and professional athletes, hard-hat workers, firefighters, and anyone who wears a helmet for work, play, or community service. Talk about it… raise awareness… be proactive!

  2. Mark October 20, 2011 / 15:19

    As far as oral appliances “mouth gear”, Dr. Cantu has stated, the research has not been done, this does not mean they don’t help. It just means the research has not been done. Just as I have stated prior. No study has been designed that has any reproducible protocol, resulting in arbitrary results. These are the limitations of common mouth guards that ignore temporal mandibular joint health. It is now on the table, U. S. Army research is proceeding with this initiative, others should follow.

    • Dustin Fink October 20, 2011 / 15:58

      It has nothing to do with properly designed studies… It has everything to do with invalid claims by you and your ilk.

  3. Joe Bloggs October 20, 2011 / 18:32

    Mark please stop. Between you Maroon, Lovell, Collins, UMPC, Brain Guard, Riddell et al. nothing is going to move forward.

    I realize that spewing mindless drivel backed by nothing more than spin will sell more mouth guards but the science is not there. Tell your bosses to go out and hire a clinical trials entity to execute a well designed independent study.

    Otherwise you are wasting everyone’s time with the marketing claptrap.

  4. Bill November 14, 2011 / 16:56

    If I understand correctly, it is being argued by some that it is OK to claim a benefit from equipment in the absence of data that shows this to actually be true, and the lack of data that shows it to be false.

    On this basis I offer for sale a red marker for putting a dot on the forehead for which I will claim a protective effect there being no data to disprove it.

    • Dustin Fink November 14, 2011 / 17:24

      Nice Bill,

      I have also penned that putting a band-aid on your forehead will reduce the incidence of concussions as well…

      • Bill November 14, 2011 / 17:29

        We now have head-to-head competition (so to speak)…band-aid vs red dot.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s