You learn something new every day, and here is something I never realized: The National Football League doesn’t require players to wear helmets that offer the best protection against concussions, despite all the hoopla about safety and head injuries.
The New York Times did a detailed story, “Despite Risks, NFL Leaves Helmet Choice in Players’ Hands,” about the situation this week. The bottom line is that No. 1, the NFL doesn’t mandate that players only use helmets that have tested to be the safest when it comes to preventing concussions, and No. 2, it doesn’t provide them with very much information about what helmets to use.
The basic NFL rule is that the helmets players use have to be certified by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment, known as Nocsae. But The Times pointed out that Nocsae’s rather non-stringent standards mean that players may be wearing helmets that haven’t performed well in safety tests, or that just protect against skull fractures, not concussions.
The NFL knows which helmets are the best, the ones that tested well — two types manufactured by Riddell and one from Schutt, according to The Times.
Unfortunately, some players wear the helmet that they think looks best on TV, with no consideration of safety, The Times reported. Many players just use whatever helmet their team provides, and don’t even give a thought to trying to find a safer helmet.
The story questions the NFL’s relationship with Riddell, which is the NFL’s official helmet maker. Only Riddell’s brand name can appear on players’ helmet. If a player is wearing a different brand, that name is covered up, The Times said.
One expert interviewed by The Times said that this sponsorship deal may prompt parents to buy Riddell helmets for their kids, even models that weren’t the best performers in safety tests.
The NFL told The Times that it may take another look at that deal with Riddell when it expires in 2014. Let’s hope it does.