By Dev K. Mishra, M.D.
President, Sideline Sports Doc
Clinical Assistant Professor of Orthopedic Surgery, Stanford University
• Proper football helmet fitting is a very important step in reducing risk of injuries such as concussions, facial lacerations, and facial fractures
• Many high school football players will release air from the air bladders in their helmets during the season to improve comfort, however, this leads to a loose helmet that protects poorly
• Ideally, helmet fit needs to be checked weekly, especially for air bladder type helmets
• Steps: if possible, select the best STAR rated helmet you can afford, next you need to follow the manufacturer’s fitting steps, and finally you need to maintain the fit at weekly intervals
This week’s post is short and sweet: make sure your football helmet is properly fitted and that you keep it that way throughout the season.
It’s a simple enough thing, at the start of the season get the best helmet you can and then make sure it’s properly fitted for you. Following generally well accepted guidelines for helmet fitting will mean that your head does not move around within the helmet, and this will mean fewer chances to get a cut on the skin from excessive movement, it will protect better against facial injuries, and it will reduce the chance of a concussion.
I would recommend that if you have a choice of helmet, that you use the STAR ratings from Virginia Tech and choose the best rated helmet you can afford. Then, make sure the helmet is properly fitted. If you are purchasing from a retail store then the sales representative should be properly trained to fit you; if you are doing this with a team then one of your coaches will be trained to do this. As a parent it might be good to familiarize yourself with the fitting process. USA Football’s informational page is an excellent resource.
During the season many players will modify the helmet fit because they feel more comfortable with a looser fit. I will commonly see players release air from air bladders, excessively loosen chinstraps, or remove padding to loosen the fit. You might be tempted to do this but resist that temptation and keep the fit snug and correct! Consult your coach or athletic trainer regularly to check your helmet. It’s a small price to pay for a big improvement in safety.