Tracking how high school football helmets are inspected and refurbished each year

ABC 3340 News (Birmingham, AL)

November 16, 2021

Concussions and head injuries on the field have put a spotlight on football helmets. Regulations for helmets are voluntary, which could leave some athletes at risk.

A football helmet can be a player’s best defense against a big hit under Friday night lights and in practice. Pleasant Grove High School’s Ty Cox says his team’s helmets meet the rules set by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment known as NOCSAE.

There are no mandatory state standards. But under NOCSAE rules the lifespan of a helmet cannot go longer than ten years. A sticker on the back of each helmet shows the year it went into service.

All the school systems ABC 33/40 News spoke with said their helmets are refurbished each year to look for any defects. “You have five to six helmets rejected every year because they may have a crack,” explained Cox.

Local school systems report helmets are refurbished every year and they follow a national organization’s guidelines.{ }

Cox says today’s helmets have improved dramatically with technology. The fit can now be tailored to each player and in some cases to the position played. Every Wednesday players and coaches check the helmets.

Keeping quality helmets that will offer the most protection is a big expenditure. Pleasant Grove HS spends $6,000- $7,000 a year on helmets. This year the school bought twenty new ones along with refurbishing all the gear already in use.

Larger school systems like Spain Park spend $7,000-$12,000 a year. Smaller systems like Maplesville in Chilton County showed us their bills which ran close to $6,000 in 2020.

It’s up to athletic directors and coaches to keep the records. The refurbishments are handled by manufacturers and outside companies.

“In some ways helmets safer than ever,” according to Dr. Kathy Weise with UAB’s School of Optometry. She explains helmet standards were greatly improved in 2017. Dr. Weise says parents should ask if helmets and facemasks are NOCSAE approved.

She says it’s important a player can see well with the helmet and have good neck strength. Also, they need to be taught proper tackling techniques to avoid injury. Dr. Weise explains people are getting better at recognizing the signs of concussion.

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