If a child wants to play football, a helmet is a necessity. Although it's impossible to keep the brain from moving around inside the skull, a helmet with a facemask can help diminish the severity of an injury. Choosing the right one, as well as making sure it's worn correctly, could mean the difference between a bump your child can shrug off and a trip to the emergency room!
But what should you look for in a football helmet? How do you make sure it fits properly? A quick read through this guide to football helmet essentials will provide you with that information and more. After you've finished, you'll be able to purchase the best helmet for your child's needs.
Considerations when choosing football helmets
A football helmet is designed to protect the head. Five elements work together to serve that purpose: shell, padding, face mask, chin strap, and eyeshield.
Shell: In a youth helmet, the shell must be made of acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS). Polycarbonate is a stronger material, but it is only used in adult helmets/leagues.
Padding: This is the part of the helmet that cushions against impacts. The padding can be made out of a variety of materials, each absorbing kinetic energy in a slightly different way. The material can be lightweight and flexible or firm. Many helmets now use air bladders, which not only protect the wearer but also aid in achieving a proper fit.
Facemask: The facemask is designed to protect the most fragile part of a player's head: the face. Often purchased separately - but manufactured for specific helmets - a facemask helps defend the mouth, jaw, and nose area with different configurations. Check with your coach to see which facemask is best for the position your child will be playing.
Chin strap: The chin strap serves the vital role of holding the helmet on the head. Additionally, it helps protect the jaw, mouth, and teeth.
Eyeshield: This material slips into the facemask to better protect a player's eyes. Always check to be sure the eyeshield is compatible with your facemask, as well as what your league rules are regarding wearing eyeshields.
Three steps to ensure proper fit:
You can have the best, highest-rated helmet ever manufactured, but if your child isn't wearing it properly, it could prove to be more dangerous than running onto the field unprotected.
Steps to find the correct helmet size
Start an inch above the eyebrows and wrap a measuring tape around your child's head to ascertain the circumference.
Using this number, consult the sizing chart from the helmet manufacturer to determine the proper size.
Steps to ensure a proper fit
Place the helmet on the child's head.
For inflatable pads: inflate the lateral liners until the helmet is snug front to back and side to side. Inflate the crown liner until the helmet sits one inch above the eyebrows.
For interchangeable pads: use the pads that provide a snug fit and allow the helmet to sit one inch above the eyebrows.
Buckle and adjust the chin strap so the helmet is snug and your child's head and the helmet move as one.
Remember: There should be no space between your child's temple and the helmet or between your child's chin and the chinstrap. Also, the helmet should not obstruct your child's vision.
Football helmets we recommend
Best of the best: Riddell Youth Speed Football Helmet
Our take: An excellent youth football helmet with a host of desirable features. Meant for the serious youth player.
What we like: Adjustable liner helps the wearer achieve the right fit. Purposefully designed inflatable jaw pad. Wicks moisture and is antimicrobial.
What we dislike: Face mask not included. Some say it runs small.
Best bang for your buck: Schutt Youth Air Standard V (No Mask)
Our take: The Schutt Air Standard V helmet is appropriate for a youth's first venture into the sport.
What we like: The padding features channels that allow for improved airflow within the helmet. Strides have been made to enable this helmet to properly fit a variety of head shapes.
What we dislike: You need to purchase the facemask separately.
Choice 3: Schutt Sports Vengeance A3
Our take: A decent choice for those who want a good helmet on a budget.
What we like: Provides a good fit for most players. Price is affordable, and many colors are available.
What we dislike: A Youth Vengeance facemask is needed, and it must be bought separately.
Allen Foster is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.