Football helmets ten years and older may be insufficient in protecting against serious brain injury, namely concussions. A bump, blow, or jolt taken directly to the head during play can cause a concussion. Any blow to the body severe enough to cause the brain and head to move rapidly will also result in concussion because the brain is twisting and bouncing within the skull. Football players are especially susceptible to concussion due to the collisions between opponents, teammates, turf, and posts that can and often do occur within games.
Although no helmet can fully protect from concussion or other injury, it is essential that players are as prepared and safe as possible before getting on the field. In an effort to better protect athletes, the National Athletic Reconditioners Association (NAERA) will no longer recertify or recondition helmets that are ten years or older. These helmets are more likely to have cracks in the temporal area, loose face mask attachments, bends, broken welds, and loose interior pads.
To aid teams in under-served areas (such as New York, NY, Cleveland, OH, New Orleans, LA, and San Francisco and Oakland, CA) who do not have funding for new helmets, the Center for Disease Control recently initiated the Heads Up program. Recognizing the necessity of a reliable helmet in helping to prevent traumatic brain injury, Heads up replaces helmets that league administrators recognize as broken or out-of-date. To determine the helmet’s age, parents, players, and coaches should refer to the manufacture date printed on it, as prescribed by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE). Heads Up concedes that injury is nearly inevitable in sports, yet they argue precautions can be taken against serious damage. In order to best ensure the safety of our athletes, teams and their families should cease the use of expired gear.