football helmets expire

Do Football Helmets Expire?

Even though we’re still in the middle of football seasons, there’s no better time to take a look at the safety gear that keeps you protected. When a 350lb linebacker comes running at you full speed, the last thing you want is a defective helmet protecting your head. A properly functioning football helmet is essential to player safety and helps prevent concussions and other injuries. Even a small hairline fracture can cause a failure, which will lead to a severe head injury. We’re going to look at the lifespan of a football helmet, whether or not they expire, and things players can do to help ensure their safety.

How Often Do Helmets Need to Be Replaced?

Each athletic organization has its own standards regarding when a helmet should be replaced. Assuming there are no cracks or other internal damage, The National Athletic Equipment Reconditioners Association (NAERA) states that football helmets must be reconditioned and recertified every two to ten years. The NFL takes safety to the next level. Each week, every single helmet is sent out to be X-rayed and manually inspected for cracks and failure. While the NFL has the budget to perform this kind of routine maintenance, many smaller athletic bodies, such as high schools, don’t. This is why players should take it upon themselves to perform regular inspections of their helmet before wearing it in practice or a game. They shouldn’t rely solely upon the coach or athletic equipment director to tell them when to turn it in as damage can occur at any time. While it’s tempting to walk out onto the field with a helmet that has caked-on dirt and shows the scars of battle, all of that grime can conceal hairline fractures and other damage that can significantly impact the safety features.

Painting a Football Helmet

A football helmet is part of a player’s identity. It’s something that represents who they are, and it’s very tempting to grab a can of spray paint and decorate it. This is discouraged as paint can contain chemicals and solvents that will weaken and destroy the protective elements of the helmet. Manufacturers are well aware of the damage that paint can cause and will void the warranty of any helmet that has been painted. While it may not seem like much, if you sustain a head injury, the voided warranty will allow the manufacturer to absolve themselves from any legal liability. This is why many players opt to add high-quality stickers to their helmets. Unlike spray paint, the adhesives on the stickers won’t mar or damage the helmet. Best of all, they can easily be replaced if the player grows tired of them or wants to add a new design.


The National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment, or NOCSAE for short, is a non-profit group that was established in the 1960s to improve the safety of athletic equipment, helmets especially. They also set reconditioning performance standards that every single helmet must meet before being shipped. These standards help ensure that ensure football helmets provide ample protection for the wearer. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) released a .pdf about helmet safety and how any football helmet that you wear should have a label that reads “Meets NOCSAE standards.” While there are less expensive helmets on the market that might be tempting to buy, you’re taking a big risk with your personal safety unless they meet the NOCSAE standards.

Reconditioning and Recertification

When a football team sends in its helmets for reconditioning, they are deconstructed, and each piece is visually inspected for deterioration, cracks, and defects. The damaged parts, such as pads and plastic pieces, will then be replaced. The helmets are then given a bath with pressurized hot water to remove any dirt, grime, and sweat to help sanitize it. They’re then stored in a climate-controlled room while the interior pads and face masks are reinstalled. Recertification comes after the reconditioning process. The helmets are tested by a variety of means, including a drop test performed upon a representative sample. Finally, the helmets are repainted, and new decals are added.

Keeping Your Helmet in Top Shape

Football helmets are one of the most important pieces of safety gear a player can wear. It’s essential to take time to understand how to perform some basic maintenance and adhere to the guidelines that will help prevent concussions and other head injuries. Since the early 1970s, Sportdecals has been the #1 manufacturer and supplier of football helmet stickers. From wall decals to award and full-size decals, we can create the perfect sticker that will look great out on the field and help you express your individuality. In addition to our superior quality, we offer a fast turn-around time and FREE shipping, coupled with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. Give us a call or stop by our website to get a free quote.
Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.