Aug. 30--With fall sports starting up, concussions are always a concern.
As anyone who has ever had a child play football knows, it's always a relief when a trip to the emergency room determines that the head-jarring collision on the field did not result in a concussion.
But sometimes a concussion -- a traumatic brain injury (TBI) caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head -- has occurred.
It's a scary diagnosis, and there are marketers preying on the public's fears and justified concerns about head injuries.
Among the products on the market are dietary supplements that claim to treat a concussion and heal it faster. Such claims are bogus, says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
"There is simply no scientific evidence to support the use of any dietary supplement for the prevention of concussions or the reduction of post-concussion symptoms that would allow athletes to return to play sooner," said Charlotte Christin, acting director of FDA's Division of Dietary Supplement Programs.
Even if a particular supplement contains no harmful ingredients, that claim alone can be dangerous, says Gary Coody, FDA's National Health Fraud Coordinator.
"We're very concerned that false assurances of faster recovery will convince athletes of all ages, coaches and even parents that someone suffering from a concussion is ready to resume activities before they are really ready," says Coody. "Also, watch for claims that these products can prevent or lessen the severity of concussions or TBIs."
These products are sold on the Internet and at various retail outlets, and marketed to consumers using social media, including
A growing body of scientific evidence indicates that if concussion victims resume strenuous activities--such as football, soccer or hockey--too soon, they risk a greater chance of having a subsequent concussion. Moreover, repeat concussions can have a cumulative effect on the brain, with devastating consequences that can include brain swelling, permanent brain damage, long-term disability and death, the FDA said.
Typically, dietary supplements promising relief from TBIs tout the benefits of ingredients such as turmeric (an Indian spice in the ginger family) and high levels of omega-3 fatty acids derived from fish oil.
In its initial surveillance two years ago, the FDA identified two companies selling multiple products claiming to prevent and treat concussions and other TBIs.
One company claimed to have "the world's first supplement formulated specifically to assist concussion recovery," saying "it has the dynamic ability to minimize long-term effects and decrease recovery time." A National Football League player testified to its "proven results in my own recovery" from a concussion, and an unnamed "licensed trainer" said he had incorporated it into his "concussion management protocol."
The products cited in the warning letters included Trinity Sports Group's Neuro Impact Concussion Response Formula and PruTect Rx's NeuroPruTect and Omega3PruTect. These products are in capsule and powder forms. They are marketed online in the United States and internationally. Both companies changed their websites and labeling.
In December 2013, FDA issued a warning letter to Star Scientific Inc. for marketing its product Anatabloc with claims to treat TBIs.
"As we continue to work on this problem, we can't guarantee you won't see a claim about TBIs. But we can promise you this: There is no dietary supplement that has been shown to prevent or treat them," says Coody. "If someone tells you otherwise, walk away."
There are also companies selling mouth guards that they claim protect athletes from concussions.
The Federal Trade Commission said this month it has sent letters to major retailers about a mouth guard called Brain-Pad. Claims that the mouth guard can protect athletes from concussions are not substantiated, the FTC said.