Helmet Maintenance 101
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For football coaches, athletic trainers, and athletic equipment managers, player safety is the number one priority for their athletes. One of the best ways to support that endeavor is to have a certified athletic equipment manager on staff. Established in 1973, the athletic equipment managers association (AEMA) added certification for members in 1991. The certification program represents a level of competence, professionalism, and accountability to organizations, coaches and athletes. With the nature in which football is played and an increased focus on head injuries, football equipment safety has come to the forefront in many organizations across the country.
While no helmet can prevent all concussions, there are a few measures that can be taken which are integral for athletes’ protection and safety:
1. A properly fit helmet by a certified athletic equipment manager.
2. The regular maintenance of helmets.
3. The re-certification of all helmets by a qualified re-conditioning business.
Fitting and issuance of helmets to players is just the first step in keeping players safe. There are common practices that certified athletic equipment managers regularly do.
Athletic equipment managers weekly inspect players’ helmets for cracks, deep gauges, hardware, and bladder issues. While this seems like a tedious process, it is imperative to continually check the helmets for defects that could affect the performance of helmets.
• Wipe down and clean all helmet shells using manufacturer recommended solution.
• Re-tighten all helmet screws.
• Check all chinstrap buckles and replace if broken or worn.
• Check and replace broken or worn bladders.
• Replace decals as needed.
• Sanitize inside of helmets using an ozone machine or helmet manufacturer recommended solution.
End of Season Maintenance
At the conclusion of each season, equipment managers and coaches at all levels begin the annual task of getting their football helmets reconditioned and recertified. There are a number of football reconditioning companies around the country, but the most important thing to keep in mind is that the reconditioning company must be certified by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE). NOCSAE is responsible for setting and establishing the standards for which football helmets (and other athletic equipment) are required to meet.
While recertification can be time consuming and costly, lack of a budget is no excuse for not recertifying helmets. According to NOCSAE, helmets need to be recertified after two seasons. So for youth programs and high schools that do not participate in spring ball, they get their helmets recertified every other year. For those schools, like colleges that have two seasons (fall and spring) they need to have their helmets recertified each calendar year.
Here is a basic plan of attack for the reconditioning football helmets:
1. Decide on a company and then contact a sales representative.
2. Decide which helmets need to be sent in?
3. Have an inventory, tracking and proper record keeping of all helmets.
4. Complete special and specific requests.
5. Prepare to ship your helmets.
6. Receive and refit your helmets.
Which helmets need to be sent in?
A couple of factors and questions have to be considered and evaluated when preparing to send a football helmet off for reconditioning. Does this helmet meet NOCSAE standards or when was the last time the helmet was set out for reconditioning? There should be a sticker inside the helmet, unless it’s brand new, stating the last time the helmet was reconditioned and recertified.
If that sticker is over two years old, the helmet must be sent in for reconditioning. It is suggested by all helmet manufacturers that if a helmet is worn during the season, send it in to get reconditioned regardless of how much use it got and regardless of what position the athlete is.
Inventory, Tracking and Record Keeping
During the reconditioning process, helmets will be buffed or sandblasted and repainted. Through this process, it can be very difficult to know which helmet is assigned to which athlete. However, by placing a number sticker, adhesive nametag, or engraving a serial number on the inside of the shell, they can be easily returned to the designated player. As with anything, there are no guarantees the sticker or engraving will be visible when the padding and reconditioning sticker is added, but most of the time if this is communicated to the reconditioning rep, they will make sure these areas are not disturbed by the reconditioning process.
Special and Specific Requests
It is okay to ask your sales rep for special and specific requests that will make your job easier. They may not be able to accommodate, but in most circumstances they can find a way to help you out. Here is a brief list of possible special requests:
• Drill helmets for strap locks.
• Return all rejected helmets, hardware and facemasks.
• Do not return rejected facemasks.
• Return helmets with facemasks and/or chin straps attached.
• Return helmets without facemasks and/or chin straps attached.
One request that is often overlooked is asking for rejected parts and facemasks to be replaced with the same part. This might seem obvious, but we have seen several times when helmets have been shipped to the reconditioner with one style facemask and returned with a different one. Do not assume that the parts being replaced will be the same. Having a sheet matching helmet numbers with jaw pad sizes and facemask styles allows the reconditioning company to better serve your organization and save you time when the equipment returns.
Receive and Refit
On average, the reconditioning process will take 4-6 weeks, depending on the time of the year. Upon their return, it is important to check the helmets to make sure everything you requested was done and that the colors of the helmet and facemasks are correct. In addition, all helmets will need to be refit on each athlete. In many cases, it has been as long as four months or more since they wore the helmet and you want to make sure nothing has changed and that the helmet fits properly.
For more information on athletic equipment
management and certification go to: