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FTC looking into helmet makers' safety claims

WASHINGTON -- The chairman of the Federal Trade Commission says his agency is looking into possible action regarding safety claims made for new and reconditioned football helmets used by high school and younger players.

Chairman Jon Leibowitz made the revelation in a letter to New Mexico Democratic Sen. Tom Udall, who had requested an FTC investigation into what he called "misleading safety claims and deceptive practices."

"We agree that these are serious concerns," Leibowitz wrote, "and will determine what action by this agency may be appropriate."

In the letter, obtained Friday by The Associated Press, Leibowitz said that issues involving serious health concerns -- especially those for children and young adults -- are a "high priority for the commission." He said the commission would look at several factors "in determining whether to take enforcement or other action."

In his letter to the FTC this month, Udall referred to what he called "misleading safety claims used in online video advertisements for helmets," specifically citing Riddell and Schutt Sports. He said he was "troubled by misleading marketing claims by Riddell, a leading helmet maker that supplies the official helmet to the National Football League."

He quotes Riddell's website as saying that "research shows a 31 percent reduction in the risk of concussion in players wearing a Riddell Revolution football helmet when compared to traditional helmets."

"Yet there is actually very little scientific evidence to support the claim," Udall said, adding that the voluntary industry standard for football helmets don't specifically address concussion prevention or reduction.

Riddell and Schutt Sports did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday.

At the time of Udall's letter, Riddell called his allegations "unfounded and unfair," and Schutt Sports said the company never claimed its helmets were "concussion reducing."

Last fall, Udall asked the Consumer Product Safety Commission to investigate whether safety standards for football helmets are adequate to protect young players from concussions.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) rushes during an NFL football game between the between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Los Angeles Chargers, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Peter Joneleit)

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