The Importance of Helmets

By : Karli Torres



Football, like Baseball and many other sports, is a helmeted sport with a high risk of concussions and other severe injuries. Helmets play an important role in sports safety. Without them, many players can get seriously injured or die. It’s crucial to protect your head when you play football. Trauma to the brain can occur as a result of a hit to the head, which can cause a concussion or open skull fracture, or a jarring motion, such as a quick turn or sudden stop. Even mild head injuries, where you don't lose consciousness, can cause permanent behavioral and cognitive problems, such as memory loss, inability to concentrate, not being able to sleep and, in some cases, permanent disability or death. A helmet can make all the difference between serious injury and walking away from an accident unharmed. But in some cases, helmets don’t really save you from some injuries. You can still get a concussion or fracture your neck. Usually, that depends on what the helmet is made of and how it was built. So, pretty much, helmets are one of the many key factors in preventing injuries while playing sports.

The first use of football headgear dates to 1869 when George “Rose” Barclay, the Lafayette College halfback, started to use straps and earpieces to protect his ears. There is no documentation on who invented the football helmet. However, some sources give credit to James Naismith, while others credit U.S. Naval Academy Midshipman, Joseph M. Reeves, who had a protective headpiece made out of moleskin in the 1893 Army-navy game. Helmets were widely used in football during the 1920s. These helmets were made of leather with some padding on the inside but provided little protection. While the helmet was developed to protect the head, these helmets lacked face mask and as a result, injuries were still common. It wasn’t until 1939 when the first plastic helmet became available. The Riddell Company of Chicago manufactured the first plastic helmet, believing it was safer than the leather options that were being used on the field. The plastic frame was able to hold its shape when collision occurred and included more padding and cushion for safety. The plastic helmet also included a plastic face mask, protecting the entire head. In the mid-1940s, leather helmets were required in the NFL. It wasn’t until 1949 that the NFL officially adopted the plastic helmet, ending the leather helmet era. By the mid-50's, single face bars were added to the helmets, and the first appearance of the radio helmet was introduced. Through the 60’s, and 70’s, Riddell continued to innovate and improve the football helmet protection and design. By the 1980s, Riddell had become an icon with its classic helmet silhouette with a circular earhole, clean face mask lines, and rounded dome. In 2002, in response to the study of head injuries, Riddell developed a new helmet design called the Revolution. The Revolution was the first significant remodel in 25 years, and as of 2007, Riddell has sold 750,000 helmets. In 2007, due to the demand for a safer football helmet, Schutt Sports announced the arrival of a next-generation helmet, the Schutt ION 4D.