“By any measure, football has never been safer and we continue to make progress with rule changes, safer tackling techniques at all levels of football, and better equipment, protocols and medical care for players.” Jeff Miller – NFL Senior VP of Health & Safety, 2015
How to Choose and Fit Football Helmets
Preventing concussions is one of the most important aspects of football safety. With all of the advances that are being made in football helmets and in the science of measuring the long-term consequences of brain injury, it’s worth checking up on the facts yearly. Wearing the right helmet – age, weight, size, and fit – will go a long way to keeping the injuries minimal, and a player’s performance at their peak.
Youth vs. Adult Helmets
Youth Helmets – Made of lightweight ABS plastic construction, youth helmets are able to withstand collisions at the level of force young players are capable of. Their prices are often cheaper than adult helmets.
Ages 5-10 (Youth League) and 10-14 (Middle School)
Youth players rarely tackle each other, so they can use lighter equipment.
Polycarbonate helmets are often forbidden in youth leagues, as they can cause more damage to opposing players when collision occurs.
Some middle school players have a skill level or physical growth that may need the protection of an adult helmet, especially by the time they are 13-14 years old. Switching to an adult helmet will help them adapt to heavier protection.
Adult Helmets – Polycarbonate construction, strong, durable – designed to take the highest levels of collision between players. Adult helmets are made to withstand helmet on helmet impacts in a way that youth helmets are not.
Ages 13 + (Middle School, High School, College)
By high school, all players must wear heavier adult helmets. In high school, college play and beyond, the hits are stronger and tackling more advanced.
Adult helmets are often higher in price than youth helmets, so be aware of the effect on your equipment budget
How to Measure Your Head
Always bring the athlete with you to the store when buying a helmet for the first time, or upgrading a helmet that has grown too small.
When measuring a head, wrap a measuring tape levelly from front to back just above the eyebrows and ears. You may also use a piece of string, which you can then measure with a ruler or yardstick. Do not use a metal tape measure.
From brand to brand, helmet sizes and fits will vary. Click the links below to check the manufacturer’s instructions on fit and sizing charts.
Helmets exist to protect players against concussions – but an ill-fitting or too-heavy helmet will also jeopardize the player. Helmet and facemask weight is an important consideration when purchasing a helmet. A helmet that is too heavy will place unnecessary stress on the neck muscles, tendons, and spine of a player, causing chronic neck and headaches and other injuries.
This is an especially important consideration for youth players. While a child’s head may reach adult size or growth when they are young, their neck will not necessarily reach adult size until well into their teens. If your child must wear a larger helmet, try to find a very light-weight one. Make sure any youth helmet is a comfortable weight for a young athlete. For junior-high and middle school players, transition them slowly year over year from their lighter youth helmets to their heavier high school or adult helmets. Give their neck muscles time to adjust and strengthen before allowing them to wear a heavy helmet.
With all of the different hardware, padding, and material types available for helmets, weights can vary greatly. Unfortunately, there are very few charts out there which compare weights between helmets, with and without various facemasks. Here’s a start that may help with your search.