A Guide To Buying The Best Football Helmet For Your Child
It's impossible to prevent all bruises or scrapes that might occur during a football game, but a helmet that has been carefully selected will provide an extra layer of protection for the player's most important body parts -- the head, neck and face.
From the NFL to the Pop Warner and Mighty Mite leagues, football helmets come in all shapes and sizes.
Most football helmets cost anywhere from $70 to $250 for NFL-grade helmets. A helmet should be tested and worn in-store prior to purchase to ensure the best fit possible.
If you have a child who is starting out in the game, make sure to purchase the best helmet available for their head shape.
The number one rule to purchasing a football helmet is to make sure that a player’s helmet is tight. Unlike other types of helmets, a football helmet should not be loose. The reasoning behind this is simple: a loose helmet will allow a person’s head to bang against the sides of a helmet upon impact. When this happens, skull and concussion-type brain injuries can occur. The first thing to look for when buying a football helmet is the overall fit of a helmet.
To test for tightness, remove the ear pads from the inside of a helmet (these pads easily come off when pulled). This will allow you to gauge the fit of the actual helmet. Next, move your child's head in all directions (right, left, backward and forward). A helmet that shakes or moves when your head moves is a helmet that’s too loose. The front of a helmet should rest against the forehead area completely (it is not uncommon for a helmet that fits properly to leave a slight red mark).
Size Is Important, But So Is Air
Football helmets come in three different sizes including small, medium, and large. However, most helmets also come with an adjustable interior so that you can easily adjust the width of a helmet for a perfect fit. Helmet manufacturers want to be absolutely certain that a helmet fits properly, which is why many top-brand helmets come with air holes.
The air hole (or opening) on the top of a helmet allows for additional air to be pumped into a helmet. For example, if a helmet fits almost perfectly, but some air space is still apparent inside of the helmet, pumping air into those empty air pockets will ensure that a helmet is as tight as can be. Air should be pumped into a helmet after a helmet has been put on, secured and sized properly (never before).
All football helmets come with jaw pads. As mentioned above, these pads should be removed when trying on a helmet for size. After a helmet has been sized, jaw pads should be inserted back into the helmet (usually, these pads snap into the helmet quite easily). After putting the pads back in, hold the front of a helmet (the mask), and move your child's head from side to side. Jaw pads that fit properly should not allow any room between the jaw and the helmet. If the jaw pads that come with a helmet do not fit, it’s important to purchase thicker or thinner pads accordingly.
Most football helmets come with one-inch jaw pads. Pads that are one-inch think tend to be the proper size for most adults. Children, on the other hand, will often need pads that are much thicker than one-inch, since kids tend to have smaller jaws.
Chin straps hold a helmet in place, and no helmet should be worn without them. Even though most helmets come with leather chin straps, it may be worth it to purchase a chin strap that is surrounded by a thick plastic cup. While a leather chin strap will secure a helmet, this thin material doesn’t offer optimal protection. A plastic chin strap will provide more protection.
Buying a football helmet for a child is slightly different than buying a helmet for an adult. Children tend to have smaller heads and chins, so make sure to purchase a helmet for a child from the junior or children’s' section of a sporting goods store. It is never a good idea to allow a child to wear a hand-me-down helmet. Passing down a helmet from one child to the next can save money, but a worn-out helmet won’t provide adequate protection.
Football is a tough sport that can lead to injury. Making sure that your child is wearing the right gear is the best way to prevent unnecessary injuries.