January 30, 2023
The National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) held its 2023 Winter Standards Meeting on Jan. 27 in Litchfield Park, Arizona. NSGA attended the meeting and has this recap.
Proposed Youth Football Helmet Standard
In the winter of 2020, the NOCSAE Standards Committee voted to begin the development of a youth football helmet standard. Discussion and updates continue as NOCSAE works to refine criteria and testing protocols in anticipation of finalizing the standard within the next year.
Clarifying the level of play for the new standard has been an ongoing discussion. NOCSAE revised the definition it will use for youth football to “football played at a level below high school.”
Elizabeth McCalley, NOCSAE’s new Technical Director, said this clarifies what level youth football is being played. Dave Halstead, the Technical Director Emeritus, said NOCSAE will need to do significant outreach to organizations so youth leagues would begin to use youth helmets.
The NOCSAE Standards Committee also approved these updates to the proposed standard:
• Removed one of the two highest-level drop-test impacts of 17.94 feet per second. It is a speed that would be extremely rare in youth football.
• Eliminated pneumatic ram testing for helmets that fit large headforms because of an inappropriate anatomical combination that puts excessive stress on the Hybrid III youth neck surrogate, which connects the large headform to the testing apparatus. Pneumatic ram testing will still be required for helmets fitting small and medium headforms.
• Clarified that the 5-pound weight limit for youth helmets with a faceguard will only be required for helmets fitting the small headform.
NOCSAE expects to have more to report on the proposed standard at its Summer Standards meeting in July in Chicago.
Potential Non-Tackle Football Headgear Standard
The NOCSAE Standards Committee continued to discuss the possibility of a non-tackle football headgear standard with the increased popularity and participation in flag football and 7-on-7.
“Companies that make soft headgear want a soft headgear standard for 7-on-7 because they say you don’t need a football helmet and don’t need all that protection,” said Mike Oliver, NOCSAE Executive Director. “Our position is soft headgear is not going to protect significant percentage of injuries. It doesn’t protect the face and teeth.”
Kim Barber Foss, the NOCSAE Research Director, presented findings at the 2022 Summer Standards Meeting from her study on non-tackle football that the majority of injuries are minor with 25% occurring to the head and face and 75% of all injuries related to some type of contact in a limited-contact sport. Barber Foss said the head and face injuries in her study were primarily contusions, broken noses and orbital fractures with only one concussion.
Key considerations for NOCSAE also include whether a soft or hard helmet is appropriate and if the helmet should be designed for single or multiple impacts. Oliver said NOCSAE will talk with the top non-tackle governing bodies and leagues to investigate what they want for non-tackle headgear and share the information at the Summer Standards meeting.
Commotio Cordis Chest Protector Update
Technical Director Elizabeth McCalley said nearly every manufacturer will have certified chest protectors to the updated commotio cordis standards ND200, effective February 2023.
Other Standards Updates
All NOCSAE standards that have not had an action taken for five years are subject to a Reaffirmation vote. The Standards Committee voted to reaffirm these standards in their current form:
• Lacrosse Helmet Performance Specifications ND041-15m18
• Lacrosse Face Protector Specifications ND045-17m17b
• Field Hockey Ball Performance Specifications ND069-14m17
• Soccer Shin Guard Testing Methods and Performance Specifications ND090-06m18
Modifications were also made to these standards:
• Corrosion Testing and Performance Specifications ND015-15m23
• Test Methods for Evaluating the Performance Characteristics of Headgear/Equipment ND001-17m23
• Pneumatic Ram Test Method ND081-23
NOCSAE New Technical Director
Elizabeth McCalley was appointed as NOCSAE’s new Technical Director, effective immediately. She has worked closely on NOCSAE testing protocols and standards developments for more than 16 years and was instrumental in NOCSAE’s work on the performance standard to protect against commotio cordis. She has worked with Southern Impact Research Center since 2007. Dave Halstead, who served as Technical Director for 28 years, was named Technical Director Emeritus.
Scientific Advisory Committee Report
Dr. Robert Cantu, NOCSAE vice president and chair of the Scientific Advisory Committee, shared updates on NFL concussion protocols and the 6th International Consensus Conference on Concussion in Sport in Amsterdam in October 2022.
Cantu touched on the criticism the NFL received from its handling of Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and his head injury issues. He said the NFL “rose to wonderful heights” with its response to the Buffalo Bills’ Damar Hamlin going into cardiac arrest during a game on January 2. Cantu said the life-saving care Hamlin received “happened with a lot of planning” and there are a minimum of 30 medical professionals at each NFL game that includes 10 from each team.
The October conference saw international experts discuss the latest research related to concussions and brain injuries in sports and establish protocols for treatment and diagnosis. A new international consensus statement on concussions is expected to be released later this year in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.