Can You Wear Your Own Helmet For High School Football?

Gameday Culture

July 10, 2023

Some high school players want to use their own helmets instead of those the school provides. Can you wear your own helmet for high school football?

Can You Wear Your Own Helmet For High School Football?

A lot of the time, your football helmet has to be equal to or better than the helmet your high school provides. They won’t let you use a helmet that offers less protection. Your school may have rules about what types of helmets or other safety equipment are allowed.

At my high school, we allow players to use their own helmets as long as the Virginia Tech safety rating is at least as high as those the school provides. The state also has minimum standards for high school football equipment. 

The Helmet Should Be Equal Or Better
Virginia Tech has a research group that gives helmets up to five stars for how well they prevent concussions. While some five-star helmets cost more than $400, the cheapest five-star helmet only costs $210. Different states have different rules, and a high school may also set rules. They might use the Virginia Tech rating to determine if a helmet is good enough for the school. They don’t necessarily insist on five-star helmets, as those provided to the students might not have the highest safety rating.

An Example Of A School’s Rules
Patriot High School in Virginia lets students use their own helmets as long as they have three-star safety ratings or better.  They can also use helmets and other football equipment provided by the school. The colors have to match the colors of the school-issued helmets.  The high school temporarily takes possession of the helmets. However, the helmets are given back to the students when they leave the football team.  Players that use their own helmets are responsible for repairing them. Patriot high school will not pay for parts for helmets that the students supply themselves.

The State’s Rules
The state of Virginia requires students to use helmets that the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment safety considers good enough. 

How Do Football Helmet Safety Ratings Work?
Virginia Tech uses a series of impact tests to determine which helmets are the best. They judge helmets for different sports in different ways.  A helmet’s resistance to impacts that are common in its sport is the most important. Helmets that reduce the head’s acceleration during an impact get higher scores.
Scientific journals such as the Annals of Biomedical Engineering support Virginia Tech’s ratings. 

What Makes A Good Football Helmet?
The most basic feature is a strong and durable shell around the helmet. This isn’t enough on its own, but it can save you from a serious injury. The shell should spread the impact from a small point to a large area.  The helmet also increases the duration of the impact to prevent injury. Instead of the impact hitting all at once and possibly causing injury, the impact occurs over a longer time. This prevents the force on the head from reaching a dangerous level.

Padding also works to cushion your head and prevent high school football injuries. Padding helps make the helmet fit properly.  If you use the right amount and the right kind of padding, your helmet won’t move around during an impact.  It is very important that there is no space between your temple and the helmet, as that is a vulnerable spot that needs to be protected. The less space there is anywhere on your head, the safer you are. Your jaw should also be protected as well as possible.

If your facemask doesn’t come with your helmet, you need to make sure it’s compatible. A facemask can protect your mouth and sometimes also your jaw and nose. Linemen that take hard hits need jaw and nose protection. You should also get a facemask with a quick release feature. A quick release feature makes it easy to remove the facemask and help you if you are injured. 

Helmet Accessories
You also need a chinstrap, mouth guard, and visor/eye shield. Visors can protect your eyes but might be against the rules sometimes (a tinted visor isn’t allowed in every league). They fit into your facemask.
Chinstraps are also important and need to fit properly, and mouthguards work well to keep your teeth safe. 

New Safety Rules
The NFHS has recently added some new rules to make high school football safer. One is that you cannot intentionally contact any player that has their helmet off. This is now automatically considered a foul. 
A player must also stop playing shortly after their helmet comes off. They can complete the action they are currently engaged in, but after that, they must stop playing. Helmetless players cannot block or tackle others. Players are also penalized for letting their helmets come off. If a player loses their helmet, they have to sit the game out for at least one down.  This is not true if they lost their helmet because of a foul by another player.

Key Takeaways
• Yes, high school students are usually allowed to use their own helmets. High schools provide helmets for players, but they can choose to use their own helmets instead.
• A high school might set rules about what helmets can be used. For example, the helmet might need a minimum safety rating from a certain authority. A state might also have rules about what helmets can be used by high school football players.
• Virginia Tech grades football helmets by how good they are at preventing concussions. They are enough of an authority that some high schools use their safety ratings to set minimum standards.
• Since football helmets are a bit expensive, most students use school-provided helmets. Schools regularly repair and replace them.
• Most students that use their own helmets probably do because of their superior appearance and not their safety. Helmets that professional teams use become fashionable for high school players. However, helmets that students use are sometimes better and safer than those the school provides.

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