POLITICS

Hockey helmet maker to drop concussion protection claims: Competition Bureau

11/13/2014 11:23 EST | Updated 01/13/2015 05:59 EST
OTTAWA - A U.S.-based hockey equipment manufacturer has agreed to stop making claims that "create the impression" that one of its hockey helmets offers protection from concussions, the Competition Bureau said Thursday.

The federal regulator said Bauer Hockey Corp.'s claims made in advertisements for the RE-AKT helmet were not supported by adequate testing, a finding the company said it did not agree with.

The company will also donate $500,000 worth of equipment to a Canadian charity that supports youth participation in sport and pay $40,000 toward the cost of the bureau's investigation, the agency said.

"The bureau takes representations to the public about performance claims that are not based on prior adequate and proper testing very seriously, particularly when they relate to the health and safety of consumers," Matthew Boswell, senior deputy commissioner of competition, said in a statement.

A spokesman for the company said the bureau did not conclude that Bauer's advertisements were false or misleading.

"The Competition Bureau noted that there is currently no established injury threshold for concussions and the absence of such a threshold was relevant to its evaluation of our testing," Steve Jones said in a telephone interview from the company's headquarters in Exeter, N.H.

"So, our testing couldn't be benchmarked with a standard test. That's where really the crux of the issue lies."

Jones said Bauer will be first in line to follow any new protocol developed by the Canadian Standards Association or the Hockey Equipment Certification Council.

Rich Wuerthele, Bauer's executive vice-president, said it was time to move on.

"While we disagree with the bureau's conclusions regarding the testing conducted by and on behalf of Bauer Hockey, we look forward to putting this matter behind us and continuing to provide our customers with the best products possible."

Concussion in hockey and other sports has been a hot topic for the past few years. A panel of international experts, led by Dr. Willem Meeuwisse of the University of Calgary, said last year that concussion is one of the most complex injuries to diagnose and treat, and understanding of it is constantly evolving.

Dr. Paul Echlin, a concussion expert who has conducted extensive research on the injury, says changing the way the games are played is the only way to eliminate or substantially reduce trauma.

"That's the fundamental change, not building bigger and better helmets," he said from Burlington, Ont., where he runs a sports medicine clinic.

The bureau said that current hockey helmet testing standards are aimed at protecting players from catastrophic brain injuries, such as skull fractures, not concussions.

Bauer has agreed to remove or modify the remaining performance claims from all RE-AKT marketing material, including packaging and online advertising as well as implement an enhanced corporate compliance program, and take steps to ensure retailers do not make the performance claims, the bureau said.

The company said the RE-AKT helmet, which costs about $200 for a basic model, represents less than five per cent of its overall hockey helmet sales in Canada.

Bauer is part of Performance Sports Group (TSX:PSG), which also includes Maverik Lacrosse, Mission Roller Hockey, Cascade Helmets, Easton, jersey maker Inaria and Combat, a maker of baseball and softball gear.

— By Abdul Latheef in Toronto.