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Democratic Committee Leaders Seek Answers from USA Football Following False Concussion Statistics

Aug 23, 2016
Press Release
USA Football repeatedly touted inaccurate findings from ftudy on youth football player safety practices

Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Health Subcommittee Ranking Member Gene Green (D-TX), Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Ranking Member Diana DeGette (D-CO), and Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade Subcommittee Ranking Member Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) sent a letter to USA Football today seeking answers on the effectiveness of the organization’s Heads Up Football program. 

The letter comes after a news report last month revealed that the Heads Up Football program, designed to improve player safety and minimize the risk of head injury, has no demonstrable effect on concussions.  The report contradicts statistics that USA Football has repeatedly touted, including at an Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Hearing on concussions in youth sports on May 13 of this year.  The National Football League (NFL) has also used the false statistics in its promotional materials.

“This recent disclosure raises concerns about the safety of youth football and whether reliable information is available to youth football players, parents, and coaches for them to make informed decisions about participation in the sport,” the four Democratic Committee leaders wrote in the letter to USA Football’s Executive Director Scott Hallenbeck.  “We are writing to understand how this misleading and false information was initially compiled, how it came to be so widely disseminated, and how USA Football is ensuring it is corrected.”

In 2014, USA Football hired the Datalys Center for Sports Injury Research and Prevention to conduct a study monitoring injury rates in the Heads Up Football program.  In February 2015, Datalys reported its preliminary findings to USA Football, showing that Heads Up Football resulted in 76 percent fewer injuries, 34 percent fewer concussions in games, and 29 percent fewer concussions in practices. 

The final study published by Datalys in July 2015 found far different results.  It found that the adoption of the Heads Up Football program did not result in a meaningful drop in concussions or in overall injuries.  In fact, the final study found that leagues that used only the Heads Up Football program actually saw slightly higher concussion rates.

The Committee leaders are seeking answers from USA Football to numerous questions including: 

  • How and when did Datalys notify USA Football of the difference between the preliminary findings and the final study? 
  • What changed between February and July 2015 that resulted in dramatically different findings?
  • What processes and procedures does USA Football undertake to ensure the accuracy of scientific studies it endorses? 
  • What efforts are being undertaken to contact parents and youth football players to ensure they have accurate information on the effectiveness of Heads Up Football in reducing concussions and other injuries? 

A copy of the letter to USA Football is available here.

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