Sports concussion prevention claims: What marketers need to know

Whether you’re a full-pads athlete or a quarterback of the Monday morning variety, you’ve read reports about sports-related concussions.  But before marketing a product advertised to reduce the risk of those injuries, businesses should take a careful look at the FTC’s settlement with Pennsylvania-based Brain-Pad, Inc.

Brain-Pad markets mouth guards with the promise that they'll provide protection from concussions.  Ads say the products will  “Reduces risk of CONCUSSIONS!”  A print ad was even more specific:  "Reduces the risk of concussions from:  facemask impacts, chin cup forces & direct lower jaw impact."

The company also sold the Brain-Pad Pro-Plus Junior.  Parents concerned about their kids’ participation in contact sports may have taken note of claims that the product “creates new brain safety space!" and "Reduces Risk of Concussions!  From Lower Jaw Impacts.”


Buyers didn't just have to take the company's word for it.  As the packaging proclaimed, "Tested and proven to reduce risk of internal head injuries and concussions from lower jaw impacts" and "BIOMECHANICALLY TESTED & PROVEN."

But according to the FTC's complaint, Brain-Pad didn’t have sound science to back up its claims.  Sure, mouth guards can help shield an athlete’s teeth and some may even reduce impact to the lower jaw.  But it’s a big leap between saying that and making concussion prevention claims.  Thus, the complaint alleges that Brain-Pad made misleading representations that their products reduce the risk of concussion and that scientific studies supported what they said.

Under the settlement, which names both Brain-Pad and its president, Joseph Manzo, the defendants will stop claiming that their mouth guards reduce the risk of concussions from lower jaw impact, reduce the risk of concussions generally, or have been scientifically proven to provide either benefit.  The settlement also prohibits them from misrepresenting the health benefits of any mouth guard.  What about other athletic equipment the defendants may market with brain protection claims?  They’ll need competent and reliable scientific evidence to support what they say.

Let’s be clear.  Health experts have raised serious concerns about concussion risks.  That’s why athletes, sports fans, and parents alike are hoping for an effective technological solution to the problem.  But before marketing any product to address those risks, companies need to back up their promises with appropriate substantiation.

What can consumers take from the case?  Scrutinize health-related ad claims and get guidance from a wide variety of trusted sources before making a purchase.  For more on sports-related concussion risks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — the CDC — has free downloadable toolkits custom-designed for parents, coaches, young athletes, and health professionals.  Visit the CDC’s Heads Up site for multimedia resources on preventing, recognizing, and responding to concussions.

 

4 Comments

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Does not matter what kind sport is, tennis, hockey, martial arts. Each one you got be really careful with concussion or another injuries.

This is an example of the FTC flexing muscle on a topic they appear to have overstepped their mandate on. Brain Pan and other mouthguards do in fact rduce the risk of concussion from lower head contact. There is plenty of scientific evidence to back it. The FTC apparantely just didn't like the info they could find. In martial arts training we find that mouthguards are effective in reducint injury also.

The FTC got it wrong in this case.

Brain-Pad does have scientific evidence of reduction in forces to the head, including tests by independent safety agencies like NOCSAE, which the FTC did not adequately address. While it may have been justified in banning claims of reducing concussions, Brain Pad is the only popular mouth guard with science that would indicate protection. my son used Brain Pad in his multiyear martial arts career as a national competitor and avoided any concussions despite many kicks to the head. In addition, football coaches have testified that the number of concussions decreased when the Brain Pad replaced the single arch mouth guards.

The FTC most certainly got it right. If Brain-Pad is quoting NOCSAE as their scientific source then they are misleading the public. See statement fro the Executive Director of NOCSAE below. As the inventor of the CustMbite mouthguard, we have not had any case reports of concussion with our mouthguard. Do I attribute that to our product? NO I DON"T. I am happy to here that your son is healthy and concussion free. Do not be fooled that it is the result of the mouthguard.

There is only one proven way to prevent a concussion and that is to stop the brain from colliding with the inside of the skull on contact.

In fact Brain-Pads problem accured because someone wearing their mouthguard sustained a concussion.

Mike Oliver, NOCSAE executive director. "Any device or supplement promoted as being able to prevent, diagnose or cure a concussion must be supported by scientific data and peer-reviewed research. Currently there is no definitive scientific research linking mouth guards, head bands, supplements or other specialty products to a reduction in concussion risk or severity. For companies to suggest otherwise misleads athletes, parents and coaches into a dangerous false sense of protection against concussion. NOCSAE warns athletes and parents of athletes to get the facts about sports equipment and concussion protection and not rely solely on marketing and promotional materials when making equipment decisions."
PR Newswire (http://s.tt/1ezQW)

I refer you to the following:

http://commerce.senate.gov/public/?a=Files.Serve&File_id=68a0dac3-16bd-4...

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