You Must Keep Football Helmets Safe

By Dan Guttenplan, FNF Coaches managing editor

Setting up a reconditioning program for your helmets is essential to ensure that players are safe in their equipment each and every year.

Just because a player’s helmet was safe the day he bought it, it does not mean it will still be safe at the end of a long season.

Special care is taken by helmet suppliers to ensure that helmets receive the highest ratings and proper certification. Once the helmet is purchased, it is up to the players, coaches and parents to maintain the equipment.

Many suppliers of helmets and shoulder pads, such as Riddell, Schutt Sports, Xenith, All Sports Association and National Athletic Equipment Reconditioner, offer helmet and shoulder pad reconditioning services.

The National Operating Committee for Sports Equipment standards do not require recertification or reconditioning of helmets on any particular schedule or frequency. However, many state athletic associations have their own regulations.

For instance, the state of California requires annual inspections. Every other state playing under National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) and NCAA rules requires recertification every two years.

Riddell’s Senior Vice President of Research and Product Development, Thad Ide, recommends annual reconditioning for helmets and shoulder pads.

“In some ways, you can think of it as an insurance program for a high school team,” Ide said. “A knowledgeable company will take care of recertifying the helmets every year in a reconditioning program. All internal components will be checked to make sure they’re fully functional. There are plenty of ways a player can do something to compromise the helmet.”

As part of Riddell’s program, the face mask, hardware and decals are removed before the helmets are sanded, cleaned and sanitized. The helmets are then inspected for hairline cracks and other defects that may have been obscured by paint. Interior parts are re-installed including replacement parts. Paint is reapplied, facemasks are reattached with proper alignment and original manufacturer warnings and product labels are applied.

“The regular reconditioning and recertification of helmets, shoulder pads and other equipment is crucial,” Ide said. “The helmet process includes cleaning, sanitizing, inspecting, repairing and reassembling, but the most important aspect is recertification after impact testing. A sample is taken from the helmet and put through testing to make sure it meets all of the optimal standards.”

Share your thoughts about this article on our Health & Safety Chat Board now! 


Dan Guttenplan is FNF Coaches senior managing editor. Do you have a thought about this article you would like to share? Send him an email at, tweet us @fnfcoaches or share it on the Coaches Chat Board.