Youth football comes with an increased risk of concussion and head injury, with some evidence showing that even kids who don't display any signs of a concussion can sometimes experience changes in their brains indicative of head trauma. Wearing a properly fitted helmet doesn't totally remove this risk, but it does help decrease the risk of concussions including loss of consciousness by 82 percent, according to a Temple University study. A responsible adult should go through the steps below to ensure the proper fit.
When selecting helmets, the coach should choose more than one style and select only youth helmets and not the heavier adult helmets. Kids have a wide variety of different head shapes, which means that no one helmet will suit every child. Newer styles of helmets may not protect any better than older styles, so this doesn't mean purchasing the most expensive helmets.
Helmets get reused multiple times, but before doing so, clean the helmets and check for any defects. During the season, regularly clean the helmets with gentle dishwashing liquid and spray every once in a while with disinfectant. Let the helmet dry in a location that isn't extremely hot or directly in the sun. Replace cracked face masks, rusted screws, and helmets with cracked shells.
Players should keep their hair the same length throughout the season, as changing hair length will affect how the helmet fits. Before being fitted for a helmet, players should wet their hair somewhat, so it simulates the sweaty conditions during a game.
Measure around the head one inch above the eyebrow. Different head measurements correspond to different size helmets. For example, medium helmets usually fit heads measuring between 20 and 22.5 inches, large helmets usually fit those with heads 21.5 to 23.35 inches around, and extra-large helmets are suitable for those with heads measuring 23 to 25.5 inches around.
Signs of Proper Fit
The front rim of the helmet should sit about one inch above the eyebrow, jaw pads should touch the jaw but not the ears, and the padding in the rear should be touching the head but not uncomfortably tight. Pushing on top of the head should result in even pressure, and the helmet shouldn't slide when pushed from side to side or up and down with gentle pressure in these directions.
The chinstrap shouldn't be used to adjust the fit of the helmet -- it's only purpose is to hold the helmet on the head. Make sure there's the same tension on all straps after first buckling the higher front straps and then buckling the lower rear straps.
Air Bladder Considerations
Responsible adults need to check at least weekly to make sure there's enough air in the air bladders of air bladder helmets. Sometimes players let out air to make them more comfortable, resulting in a helmet that's too loose for safety purposes. Air also slowly leaks out over time. Coaches should only fill the bladder when the player is wearing the helmet.
Players may need to change to a different size jaw pad or use helmet adjustment pads to get a helmet to fit properly, especially if they're in between sizes. Have these pads available at fittings so that the fitting so that you complete the process in one sitting.
Communication With the Athlete
Talk with the player to make clear the risks of playing with a helmet that doesn't fit properly. Inform them about how the helmet should feel when it fits correctly, and make sure they know not to release air from the bladder of their helmet on their own.
Mesquite Sports Center can help with all of your football uniform needs and offers a variety of different helmet options.