Sports Equipment Safety

The main focus regarding sports equipment safety is generally helmets. Other important protective equipment includes shoulder pads, chest protectors, shin guards, and protective eyewear; these also require proper fit, maintenance, and replacement when necessary

  • It is important to note that there is no concussion-proof helmet
  • Helmets protect your athlete from a serious brain or head injury

The CDC website is an excellent resource for information on helmet safety:
There are specific helmet fact sheets for specific sports:

The CDC website also has a link to download the free CDC HEADS UP Concussion and Helmet Safety app

  • Helps teach parents and coaches how to spot a possible concussion and what to do if you think your child or teen has a concussion or other serious brain injury
  • The app includes a 3D helmet fit feature that teaches about proper helmet fit, safety, and care​

Important Helmet Considerations:

Ensure good fit

  • Helmet sizes vary between companies
  • Hairstyle can alter fit
    • Consider fitting the athlete when his or her hair is wet to simulate sweating
  • Helmets should provide enough coverage of the head to adequately protect the entirety of the head

Helmets should be cleaned regularly

  • Warm water and a mild detergent
  • Do not soak any part of the helmet
  • Avoid high heat
  • Do not use strong cleaners

Should be checked regularly for damage

  • Do NOT use a cracked or broken helmet or a helmet that is missing any parts
  • Check for missing or loose padding before the start of the season and regularly

Protect the helmet

  • Don’t sit or lean on it
  • Store it at room temp and not in a car  

Know when to replace a helmet

  • This depends on wear and tear
  • There may be a sticker on the helmet that says it should not be reconditioned and may say how long it can be used

​Football helmets have a 10 and Out Rule

  • They should be replaced no later than 10 years from the date of manufacture.  Many will need to be replaced sooner, depending upon wear and tear.

Football helmets (among other types of helmets) can be reconditioned. This involves having an expert inspect and repair a used helmet by:

  • Fixing cracks or damage
  • Replacing missing parts
  • Testing it for safety
  • Recertifying it for use
  • Should be done regularly by a licensed NAERA-member (National Athletic Equipment Reconditioning Association)
    • NAERA
      • 21 members that recondition/recertify athletic equipment
        • Only one member is in Washington State – VICIS in Seattle which makes one particular brand of helmet
      • Recertify football helmets, lacrosse helmets, softball/baseball helmets, and face guards
      • The website is vague about the timing of reconditioning
        • “For helmets, NOCSAE does recommend that the consumer adhere to a program periodically having used helmets recertified.  Because of the difference in the amount and intensity of usage on each helmet, the consumer should use discretion regarding the frequency with which individual helmets are to be recertified”

Bike helmets have a One Impact Rule

  • Replace any bicycle helmet that is damaged or has been involved in a crash
  • Bike helmets are designed to help protect the rider’s brain and head from one serious impact, such as a fall onto the pavement
  • Although you may not be able to see the damage to the foam, the foam materials inside the helmet will crush after an impact and will not be able to help protect the rider’s brain and head from another impact.   (Football, baseball, and hockey helmets are more durable and can survive repeated impact)
  • Some helmet companies have created multi-use helmets for biking, skateboarding, and other activities. These are designed to withstand multiple very minor hits. A multi-use helmet must be replaced if it has been involved in a serious crash or is damaged. Make sure your multi-use helmet has a CPSC label certifying it for biking
    • CPSC: Consumer Product Safety Commission - developed by the US federal government standard for bicycle safety helmets covering all helmets produced for the US market after March 10th, 1999
  • Click here for a well-considered outline of when to replace a helmet
Labels are important.  Look for labels that:
  • Have the date of manufacture (this information will be helpful in case the helmet is recalled)
  • Say NOCSAE-certified (National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment)
    • Considered the main governing body on athletic equipment
      • The American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, the American College of Sports Medicine, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, among many others, are all members
    • NOCSAE was created in 1969 to help reduce the rate of  serious injuries and fatalities in football by introducing helmet standards
    • Now NOCSAE certifies headgear for football, baseball/softball, lacrosse, hockey, and polo.  They also certify lacrosse balls, baseballs, softballs, and soccer shin guards
    • Recommends that all organizations create a recertification policy in which their equipment is regularly inspected to meet their specific demands on the equipment
DISCLAIMER: All information contained on the website is intended for informational and educational purposes. The information is not intended nor suited to be a replacement or substitute for professional medical treatment or for professional medical advice relative to a specific medical question or condition.

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