Of the between 1.7 and 3 million sports and recreation-related concussions that occur annually, nearly 300,000 are attributed to football, according to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Even though you can't concussion-proof your child, a quality football helmet can reduce the risks associated with traumatic brain injury. Before you point and pick or buy the first model your child asks for, take a look at what every player's parent needs to know about football helmets and youth sports safety.
Don't Buy Used Equipment
You may be tempted to save money by choosing a used or hand-me-down helmet. But this money-saving tactic isn't a safe option for your child. Used helmets can have cracks or other types of damage that reduce or eliminate the helmet's ability to protect your child's head.
Along with cracks, padding that's missing or worn can also seriously affect the helmet. Likewise, improperly inflated air bladder-equipped helmets can also put your child at risk for an injury.
A previously worn helmet that is free from cracks, worn padding, or other noticeable issues may still have problems that limit its effectiveness. Your young athlete should never use a helmet that is 10 years old or older (from the date of manufacture), according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Buy the Right Size and Fit
Proper fit is essential. An ill-fitting helmet can slip, slide, or gap in ways that leave your child's head vulnerable to a concussion or skull fracture. Different brands have different fits. This means that sizes vary, making it important to try the helmet on your child - and not just choose one based on a previous purchase.
Along with a snug fit (both for the helmet itself and for the chin strap), models with an air bladder system need the correct level of inflation. If you're not completely sure how to find the right fit for your child's head or how to inflate an air bladder, talk to a professional. The sports equipment expert can help your child find the right size for their head.
Use the Helmet
The best-fitting helmet won't do your child any good if it never touches their head. Talk to the coach before the season begins and ask what the league's or team's policy is for safety equipment. In most cases, proper safety equipment use is a requirement for practice and game play.
Depending on your child's age, they may need assistance putting their helmet on correctly and securing it safely. Also, ask the coach if an adult will be available to check your child's helmet before they go onto the field.
Even though helmets can reduce injury risk, they don't necessarily prevent concussions. According to the American Academy of Neurology, one study found that helmets could reduce the traumatic brain injury risk by 20 percent (in comparison to not wearing anything).
While that might seem insignificant, it does show that helmets give your child a fighting chance. The same study also found that football helmets reduced skull fractures by 60 to 70 percent and reduced focal brain tissue bruising risks by 70 to 80 percent.
Concussions and other head injuries are always serious. Along with buying your child a helmet that fits and making sure that they wear it, you also need to discuss the importance of reporting injuries - especially if you aren't at every game or practice.
Your child needs to report any head impact to their coach and to you. They also need to tell you if they have a headache, nausea, or vomiting; are dizzy; have blurry or double vision; are confused; have difficulty concentrating; or just aren't feeling right.
Does your child need a new football helmet? Contact Mesquite Sports Center for more information.