What to Consider When Buying a Football Helmet

October 8, 2019

By Lauren Fournier, PT, DPT
Vestibular Rehab Therapist

With all the discussion about concussions in youth sports, especially football, it can seem daunting when trying to decide what type of helmet to choose for your child. There is no guarantee that your child will be concussion-free, but there are helmets that will give them better protection and hopefully decrease the severity of their injury.

  •  It may seem obvious but avoid buying a replica helmet… they are not meant to be worn on the field.
  • There are youth and adult or “varsity” football helmets. Each of these categories comes in sizes from extra small up to extra-large.
    • To measure, use a soft tape measure, find the circumference of your child’s head around its widest part. Measure from 1″ above the eyebrows around the back of the head.
    • Each manufacturer has their own sizing chart. Be sure to refer to the company’s website to find the most accurate fit
  • The “perfect” helmet will have just the right amount of cushioning without feeling too heavy.
    • The padding shouldn’t be too soft, otherwise it won’t protect against impact.
    • State of the art helmets use thermoplastic urethane (TPU) as a cushioning material. It’s anti-bacterial, highly resistant to damage and doesn’t compress like the less expensive versions.
    • Some helmets have an inflatable lining, as well as, or instead of, TPU/foam.
      • If you buy a helmet with this feature, don’t forget to buy a separate pump to blow up the pads.
  • Youth football helmets are made with Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) plastic to protect your child’s head while also remaining lightweight.
  • Adult football helmets are made with a tougher Polycarbonate material
    • Using these helmets is illegal in some junior competitions because in head-to-head clashes they can hurt opposition players.
  • If the helmet feels too heavy, maneuverability on the field will be compromised and they may suffer from neck strain.

  • Face guards
    or masks are the metal grills that are often sold separately to the actual helmet.
  • Optional additions:
    • Face visor – helps to shield your eyes from sunlight and rain. Can offer some protection in tackles too.
    • Quick release systems – some helmets have a feature to instantly remove the face mask in case of an emergency.
    • Inflatables – companies produce helmets with inflatable jaw pads and liners inside the helmet for added protection. The benefit of these components is they’re adjustable – you can pump them up to your desired level.

If you’re debating if you should pay extra for the “top of the line helmet”, keep this in mind: it’s one of the most important pieces of equipment in the sport. Most broken bones can heal. Your brain, on the other hand, is more delicate and the effects can last much longer than you might think.

Concussions, AKA Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI’s) are serious and have serious consequences. The proper helmet can help. If your child has suffered a concussion, Lauren Fournier, PT, DPT, Vestibular Rehab Therapist, has advanced expert training to determine the best course of treatment to maximize healing and minimize the chances of prolonged symptoms or long term damages. Give your child the love and care that they deserve and schedule an appointment today.



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