How do I Know When a Football Helmet Needs to be Replaced or Reconditioned?
It’s no secret that football helmets take a beating. Week after week, day after day, these protective devices are designed to absorb the impact from tackles and hits in order to protect our heads. But how do you know when it’s time to replace your football helmet, or have it reconditioned?
Football helmets were not designed to last forever. It would be unrealistic to think that a device designed to protect you from harm could survive hit after hit over the years and not have to be replaced. Almost all safety devices in our everyday lives have an “expiration” date, or a date in which they should be inspected.
For example, did you know that children’s car seats expire? It’s true, after 7-8 years, the plastic in the car seats can begin to degrade making them less effective than if they were new. Car seats also need to be thrown away or destroyed if they were ever in a vehicle that was in a car accident.
So if car seats have such strict rules about not being usable after a single crash (no matter how severe), it would also make sense that football helmets need to be inspected, reconditioned, or discarded once they have taken too much abuse.
When Should a Football Helmet Be Replaced?
If you see any hairline cracks or broken plastic in the main bulk of the helmet, do not use your helmet!
Any cracks that you can see are going to weaken the overall structure of the helmet and could cause a catastrophic failure the next time you get hit. Certain cracks, depending on where they are on the helmet and how expansive they are, can be repaired by an expert if you decide to go that route. However, for the utmost safety of the user, we would recommend purchasing a new helmet if possible.
In addition to visible damage to the plastic part of the helmet, the padding on the inside should be in good condition as well. The padding is what holds the helmet snuggly against your head and any damage to the padding could cause the helmet to be loose, or to come off more easily than it should.
Football helmets are designed to be very snug against your head when worn. Having a loose helmet will allow it to move around during gameplay and can cause injury.
If you’re helmet is in good condition and doesn’t appear to have any visible damage to it, it is still recommended that you have the helmets inspected, reconditioned, and recertified every 2-10 years.
Reconditioning a Football Helmet
Even though your helmet may have only been used a few times and has spent years in your garage under a pile of old sporting equipment, you don’t know what sort of underlying damage there may be.
Having your helmet inspected, reconditioned, and recertified every 2-10 years will help ensure that the helmet has maintained its structural integrity and has not started deteriorating. Even if the helmet hasn’t been used consistently for all those years, the padding on the inside can degrade, the outer plastic shell can degrade (just like the car seat example above).
When you have a football helmet reconditioned it is fully dismantled and inspected for any damage. This includes degradation, cracks, defects, and tears. Once the damaged pieces are removed and replaced, the helmets are sanitized and recertified.
Recertification is the process where the helmets are put through a series of safety tests to ensure that they are structurally sound and ready for use.
Football helmets are the most important part of a player’s protective equipment. Protecting your head has been a hot topic of discussion for many years now and has caused many new safety measures to be taken in terms of how the game is played and how protective equipment is inspected.
While park district sports and most high school sports don’t have the ability to do daily inspections of helmets, colleges and the NFL have all of their helmets x-rayed after each game to ensure that there is no internal damage that can’t be seen by the naked eye, that’s how important it is to visually inspect your helmet after every use.
A single crack isn’t worth the possible consequences, so be sure to look over your equipment and discontinue use if you find any signs of damage.