History of the Football Helmet
Football gear has completely transformed from what it was in the very beginning. It's even come a long way just in the past decade. At the start of the sport, protective gear was completely optional to wear. The concern of concussions and serious injuries was nonexistent.
In the early 1920s, the first football helmets that were introduced were made of hardened leather.
In 1939, John T. Riddell made the first plastic helmet. These helmets were safer and more durable, but did not have internal padding.
Facemasks weren’t introduced until the mid 1950s as a single bar that went across the mouth. Single bar facemasks remained on the field until 2004.
In 1939, college teams required players to wear a helmet. The NFL made this rule mandatory in 1943. Around 1962, facemasks became standard as well. They improved the safety of players but quickly turned against them by helmets being utilized as a weapon and charging at others head-on.
By 1975, facemasks with multiple bars made their debut and were required as a part of uniform. This saved faces from broken noses, gouged eyes, and loose teeth. Only kickers were able to wear single bar facemasks due to the visibility perks. More facemask designs would become available and offer different levels of protection, visibility, and style.
By the 80s, football helmets became an engineered piece of equipment. Helmets evolved to be composed of 3 materials for the shell and include foam padding inside to create as tight a fit as possible. In 1998, the last essential helmet component was created: the visor. These were clear shields created to protect the player’s eyes, the last part of a player’s face that was exposed.
Rules and Reasoning
Players have the freedom to choose what model helmet they use. The only requirements are that the helmet has passed a safety test and meets NOCSAE standards. The NOCSAE Standards Committee is in place to ensure players are wearing well-maintained, protective gear. These standards are based on scientific and medical data that focuses on a helmet’s ability to reduce impact forces to the head. Helmets are put through a pneumatic ram and hit 29 times in several areas to test durability. When a helmet is reconditioned, it goes through the same drop test before and after reconditioning. If it does not pass these tests, it cannot be recertified for use.
Manufactured helmets last for 10 years with proper maintenance. All certified helmets are required to include a NOCSAE certification label as well as a warning label to show that players are aware of the risks of concussion, paralysis, brain and neck injury, and more. If these labels are not present on the helmet, they are deemed unsafe to use and the player would be taken off the field.