football helmet visors

Football Helmet Visors - What Visors are Available? And Are They Allowed in All Leagues?

The visors you see adorning the helmets of some football players has an interesting history. While the football helmets were created in the early 1900's, the football visor has only been around since the 1980's. Also known as an eyeshield, it’s most often made out of a synthetic curved material that attaches to the front of a football helmet. The primary purpose of the visor is to add an additional layer of protection for the eyes of players. Mud, sand, fingers, cleats, and even grass can easily find their way into an unprotected helmet. This can cause severe eye damage, especially when the football player is fully focused on avoiding the 300 lb. linebacker headed straight for them at full speed. We’re going to take a look at the football helmet visor, its history, and the rules that govern its usage in the NFL.

History of Visors

The sunglasses company Oakley first started making football visors out of poly-carbonate and plutonite in the early 1980's. These synthetic materials are chemically engineered to provide superior strength over traditional plastics you might find on a pair of sunglasses. The visors are often injection-molded, which allows the lens to reflect glare and gives the visor its signature curvature. While most visors are see-through, some offer various shades of tint to help cut down on the reflective glare of the sun. As the years progressed, some manufacturers created visors that offered the same benefits as a regular pair of prescription glasses.

Types of Football Helmet Visors

Clear – Clear visors are the standard visor that’s legal for on-field play in the NFL. As of 2019, the rules have changed, and players may only wear Oakley-branded visors. Smoke Grey – While completely black tint is illegal without a medical exemption, the NFL does allow smoke grey visors. It’s a light tint that blocks out some of the sun but still allows opposing players to see the face of the person behind the visor. Mirror or Polarized – Polarized or mirror visors help block out UV rays, the sun, and bright lights from night games. Many athletes, such as Le’Veon Bell from the Steelers, wear polarized visors that match their team colors. It offers much of the same protection as the smoke great visors.


As with all new inventions in life, it didn’t take long for certain NFL players to realize that a dark-tinted visor completely concealed their face and gave them an unfair advantage over players without full-tint visors. This prevented opposing players from seeing exactly where the player is looking—and anticipate and react to their next move. In 1998 season, the NFL completely banned dark visors for players unless they had a medical exception. While the football players claim that dark tint is just a cosmetic that makes them look cool, the NFL feels that it can prevent a fair game from taking place. In the 2018 season, only 14 players qualified for that exemption.

Usage of Football Visors

The NFL has specific rules for wearing football visors on-field. Currently, players without a medical exemption can only wear a clear visor. No “swag” (such as lettering) of any sort is allowed, and the referees have been instructed to pay close attention to the visors that players are wearing. Ultimately, the referee has the final say, and players can be fined and penalized for breaking the rules. Player safety is another reason the NFL has banned dark tint visors. If a player falls down on the field, time is of the essence. Team doctors must be able to visually diagnose what’s wrong so that they can provide the player with the proper medical help. For example, if a player falls down to the ground, and blood is running down his face, the doctors need to quickly ascertain exactly where the blood is coming from. Visors cannot be removed without completely taking off the helmet—in situations where potential spinal injuries have occurred; the doctor needs to be able to visually see the eyes of the player. If they were forced to physically remove the helmet from the player who suffered a spinal injury, this could cause even more damage.

Oakley Prizm

In 2019, the NFL partnered up with Oakley to create an official NFL visor. This means that if NFL players want to wear a visor, they are now contractually obligated to wear an Oakley brand while on-field. They can wear anything they like while off-field. Oakley claims that their new “Prizm” technology is superior to others in that it can help enhance color while on the field while maintaining a slight tint. It allows certain colors like the green of the field and brown of the ball to stand out more prominently, thereby allowing the player a distinct advantage. NFL players can still get an exemption to wearing an Oakley brand visor provided that they have a medical note and can prove that a competing visor manufacturer offers “unique medical benefits.”

Stickers for Your Football Helmet

While most football leagues have strict rules on helmet visors, they’re a bit more lenient about helmet stickers. While a helmet sticker won’t protect your eyes, they do look really cool and allow you to individualize your football helmet. If you have a plain-looking helmet and are ready to personalize it, check out the massive selection of custom football helmet stickers!
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