FOOTBALL HELMET BUYING GUIDE
Today's football helmets offer superior protection for the player and come in a variety of sizes with
different padding systems. It is important to know the different components when purchasing a football
Youth models are obviously designed to fit a smaller player's head.
Additionally, these typically use a different type of plastic, such as ABS; which is very durable but less
expensive than tougher plastics used in adult helmets.
Adult helmets generally use a Lexan Polycarbonate shell which is a very resilient material.
* Air Systems
Helmet manufacturers do offer models with an air system liner, usually called a "bladder".
This is designed to return the air system or "bladder" to its original state after an impact much more
rapidly than foams or straps. Air systems withstand repeated blows better than helmets that use just
foam pads. In addition, air systems are generally more comfortable and provide for an easy fit since air
can be adjusted to tighten the helmet to your head's specific shape. They are usually offered in fewer
sizes. This is because of their characteristics, they fit a wider size range in each.
Helmets come with a series of pads, usually foam - that cushion the head, jaw and bridge of the nose.
These pads come standard with any helmet that you buy. Replacement pads, liner padding systems
and liners also are offered. These parts are usually interchangeable to allow for proper fitting.
Pads may be designed specifically for your helmet model and are not interchangeable across
manufacturers, but may be through their respective models.
Pad systems include front and back sizes to adjust the helmet's fit.
Pads for the top, side and back of the helmet and jaw pads also are part of the padding system
Manufacturers offer these pads in different thickness, ranging from 1/2 to 1 inch, to allow you to select
the firmness that you prefer, or for fitting variations.
NOCSAE stands for the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment, a voluntary
organization that has developed standards for a variety of sports protective equipment
Any helmet that bears the NOCSAE seal shows the manufacturer has met the standards at the time the
helmet was manufactured
Chin straps perform two functions
First, they protect the chin area, with a cup that fits snugly underneath and around the chin
Second, the straps snap onto your helmet to hold it firmly on your head. That's why it's crucial to keep it
centered and without slack.
Helmets come with standard chinstraps, but you can buy different styles and replacement straps
Helmets come in two basic ways: with and without the mask
There is an array of face masks offered, each designed to protect various parts of the face and to
optimize protection for different players while still allowing them the best visibility to play their position
Manufacturers often use letters to designate a facemask's designed protection
OPO--Oral Protection Only
JOP--Jaw and Oral Protection
NOPO--Nose and Oral Protection Only
NJOP--Nose, Jaw and Oral Protection
EGOP--Eye Glass and Oral Protection
In order to protect the carbon steel that is generally used in facemasks, manufacturers may offer
different coatings, with a premium paid for more durable coatings.
Face Guard Styles
There are many styles of face guards to help you maximize needed protection while still being able to
play your position. These differences are usually indicated by an abbreviation:
Refers to the reinforced bar at the top of the facemask
This strengthens the facemask and minimizes the chance of vertical spreading
DW: Double Wire Configuration
This adds stability and strength
It also decreases the opening in the facemask so hand, fingers and feet are less likely to strike your face
This design minimizes the chance of horizontal spreading, important for linemen or for other positions
where you either block or tackle and end up in the pile
SW: Single Wire Configuration
This eliminates a bar running in the "east-west" direction
This design will suit you if you play a position where visibility is critical
UB: U-Bar Attached
This often times is called a bull ring
As with a Double Wire design, the U-Bar also is designed to minimize fingers, hands or feet from
striking your nose
SK: Skill Position Players
Designed for skill position players since the side bar is angled back for better peripheral vision
It's also slightly longer
Face Guard Sizes
Sizes typically run youth, regular and extra-large to correspond to each manufacturer's sizing system
Youth model face masks typically should fit all sizes of youth helmets
Regular size face masks should fit small, medium and larger shell sizes of adult / varsity helmet
X-large face masks fit the same size shell as regular size face masks and can also be used on large
sizes when a player may need the extra protection
Determining Your Helmet Size
Have someone help measure you with a measuring tape or head caliper at 1" above the eyebrows to
determine the size of your head. This then will correspond to the various sizes offered in helmet models.
Helmet manufacturers strongly suggest you maintain a moderate to short hairstyle during the season.
Severe changes in hair length often require a new fit.
Dampen your hair to approximate sweat conditions; towel off excess water
The front of the helmet should sit 1" above the eyebrow. This is the point at which the head was
measured and is the point at which you can encompass the largest percentage of head mass.
When pressing downward with the fingers interlocked on the top of the helmet, the pressure should be
on the crown of the head and not on the brow
The chinstrap should be exactly centered and without slack to anchor the helmet properly.
Keep in mind that not all manufacturers size the same. Please see specific sizing charts for each
SAFETY WARNING !
DO NOT USE FACE MASKS/HELMET SYSTEMS TO BUTT, RAM OR SPEAR AN OPPOSING PLAYER. THIS
IS IN VIOLATION OF THE FOOTBALL RULES AND CAN RESULT IN SEVERE HEAD, BRAIN, OR NECK
INJURY, PARALYSIS OR DEATH TO YOU, AND POSSIBLE INJURY TO YOUR OPPONENT. THERE IS THE
RISK THAT THESE INJURIES MAY ALSO OCCUR AS A RESULT OF ACCIDENTAL CONTACT WITHOUT
INTENT TO BUTT, RAM OR SPEAR. NO FACE MASK/HELMET SYSTEM CAN PREVENT ALL SUCH