Safety First: NOCSAE Strives for Rigorous Equipment Standards in Sports

National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS)
May 21, 2024

In the competitive spirit of sports, every play counts and so does every precaution. The National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) is at the forefront of athletic protection, helping to ensure athletes are equipped with the most protective gear possible in their sport.

What is NOCSAE’s Role?
NOCSAE’s mission is to commission research to advance the understanding of sports injury and prevention and develop standards to enhance the protective performance of athletic equipment.

• NOCSAE sets athletic equipment standards; it does not certify or approve equipment.
• Safety Equipment Institute (SEI) certifies athletic equipment to NOCSAE standards. NOCSAE is the only standards organization to require third-party certification.
• NOCSAE performance and test standards are voluntary and available for adoption by any sport regulatory body.

Why NOCSAE Standards?
NOCSAE develops the most rigorous equipment standards in athletics, covering a wide range of sports, including baseball, field hockey, football, lacrosse, polo, soccer, softball and more. NOCSAE standards are regularly updated to reflect the latest breakthroughs and developments in science, medicine and technology, ensuring athletes have the best protection available. NOCSAE standards also mandate very strict quality assurance requirements which are enforced as part of the SEI third-party certification program.

Look for the NOCSAE Mark
The “Meets NOCSAE Standard” mark is your assurance that sports equipment has met the most rigorous standards and highest criteria feasible for equipment. This mark signifies that athletic equipment adheres to stringent performance and test standards set by NOCSAE and is certified by the Safety Equipment Institute.

Recertification and Replacement
NOCSAE standards include recertification for a variety of athletic equipment including helmets used in football, baseball, softball, ice hockey and lacrosse, and face guards. NOCSAE encourages coaches, parents and athletes to check their equipment to determine if it is eligible for recertification or if the manufacturer requires replacement after a certain date. For example, many batting helmets, catcher’s helmets and lacrosse helmets are not eligible for recertification.

To maintain peak protective performance, NOCSAE recommends a diligent equipment inspection and recertification program. Trust in a NOCSAE-licensed provider for recertification and reconditioning to ensure your equipment continues to meet NOCSAE’s standards.

Check with your school or sports league to learn more about their reconditioning and recertification program. You can also learn more about recertification and reconditioning at the National Athletic Equipment Reconditioners Association website at

Concerns About Add-Ons and Alterations
Customizing helmets with add-on products or altering their original components can compromise their protective performance, increasing an athlete’s risk of injury. In addition, certification to NOCSAE standards for any piece of athletic equipment is only valid if the equipment remains unaltered and in the configuration the manufacturer submitted for certification. The addition of add-on products or alterations to equipment, even if intended to improve performance or collect data, can make the certification voidable by the manufacturer. Add-on products, other than graphics, create a new and untested model, as defined by NOCSAE standards.

Equipment Lifespan
Damaged or altered athletic equipment can fall short of NOCSAE’s performance standards, it must be sidelined or replaced unless recertification is possible. A regular program of recertification and reconditioning by a NOCSAE-licensed reconditioner will ensure equipment continues to perform as intended. Check manufacturer guidelines for the recommended recertification schedule. Football helmets can be recertified for up to ten years from their initial certification, subject to regular inspection.

Your Role in Protecting Athletes
High school coaches, athletic directors, school administrators and parents play a vital role in athlete safety. By choosing equipment certified to NOCSAE standards and ensuring equipment is properly maintained, including the certification, you’re providing athletes with the protection they deserve.

Accepting the Reality of Sports Risks
While NOCSAE standards enhance the protective abilities of athletic equipment and help to mitigate risks, no equipment can eliminate the inherent dangers of sports entirely. And no helmet can prevent all concussions or other head injuries. Awareness, responsible play, immediate injury response and adherence to game rules are critical components of athlete safety. For inquiries and to confirm your equipment’s certification status, visit the Safety Equipment Institute For more information about NOCSAE, please visit or contact Executive Director Mike Oliver at

Your commitment to safety is the biggest win for your team.

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