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Senator pushes for helmet safety inquiry

WASHINGTON (AP) - A U.S. Senator is asking the Federal Trade
Commission to investigate "misleading safety claims and deceptive
practices" in the selling of new football helmets and
reconditioning of used ones.

In a letter dated Tuesday - a copy of which was obtained by The
Associated Press on Monday night - Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., tells
FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz that helmet companies "appear to be
using misleading advertising claims" and that "some helmet
reconditioning companies may be falsely selling used helmets as
meeting an industry safety standard."

In his letter to the FTC's Leibowitz, Udall says he is
"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."

Udall adds: "Yet there is actually very little scientific
evidence to support the claim."

In the letter - which was first reported by The New York Times -
Udall also refers to what he terms "misleading safety claims used
in online video advertisements for helmets." He specifically cites
Riddell and Schutt Sports.

"After reviewing Senator Udall's letter to the Federal Trade
Commission, we believe his statements and allegations are unfounded and unfair," Riddell CEO Dan Arment said in a statement e-mailed to the AP.

"Riddell has consistently maintained a policy of transparency
with all of our research and products and participated in any
helmet test when requested. Riddell has exceeded all of the
industry standards and conducts and submits to more rigorous
testing than most companies in other industries," Arment's
statement added.

Arment continued: "We welcome any scrutiny and review. For the
public's benefit, we hope that the FTC will provide greater
scrutiny of all helmet manufacturers."

A Schutt Sports spokesman said the company was aware of Udall's
letter but declined comment.

In November, Udall asked the Consumer Product Safety Commission
to investigate whether safety standards for football helmets are
adequate to protect players from concussions. Udall serves on the
Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees the CPSC.

His letter to the FTC's Leibowitz says the "voluntary industry
standard for football helmets does not specifically address
concussion prevention or reduction." That standard is set by the
National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment
(NOCSAE), a nonprofit corporation.

Helmets used in NFL, NCAA and high school football are supposed
to pass a test developed by NOCSAE. The group's website says it
establishes "voluntary test standards"; that "manufacturers test
their own helmets"; and that "NOCSAE does not possess a
surveillance force to ensure compliance with the standards."

Udall also wants the FTC to "look into potential false and
deceptive practices related to the reconditioning of used
helmets."

He writes: "NOCSAE and the National Athletic Equipment
Reconditioning Association (NAERA) do not conduct market
surveillance or follow up testing of helmets to ensure compliance
with their certifications. Moreover, there is no standard for how
often used helmets must be recertified. Such potentially dangerous
used helmets are commonly worn by players at all levels of
football."


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