It seems like I see a new supplement advertised for treating traumatic brain injuries and concussions every day, which is very interesting seeing as brain injuries are still a very serious condition that occurs with high regularity around the world. You would think supplement manufacturers finding the miracle treatment or cure would make the headlines.
Unfortunately, several companies are aware of the rising concern about brain injuries and the laws surrounding supplements allow them to take advantage of these worries in order to market substances that haven’t been tested or evaluated. The problem has gotten so out of hand the FDA has had to issue a warning to consumers this week.
“Exploiting the public’s rising concern about concussions, some companies are offering untested, unproven and possibly dangerous products that claim to prevent, treat or cure concussions and other traumatic brain injuries,” the agency said in a post on its website.
“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,” said Gary Coody, FDA’s National Health Fraud Coordinator. “Also, watch for claims that these products can prevent or lessen the severity of concussions or TBIs.”
The problem is that dietary supplements are not under the intense scrutiny which medications must face which allows a troubling number of supplements to enter the market with minimal testing and highly unrepresentative advertising. Once the product is on the market, the most the FDA can do is send warning letters to the manufacturers or recall products found to be blatantly making false claims.
Those policies don’t prevent more than 85,000 dietary supplements from making it to market without a portion slipping through the agency’s monitoring system.
As much as we wish there was a reliable and safe treatment for traumatic brain injuries widely available on the market, the truth is that there are currently no such products. The best treatment currently approved by medical studies is still old fashioned time and rest and nothing is guaranteed to speed up a recovery.
Trying to speed the recovery increases chances of returning to risky activity before the recovery is complete, which can increase the risk of suffering another more severe concussion.
“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.