From Past to Present: The American Football Helmet
Are you a huge fan of the NFL? It’s amazing how much the American football helmet has changed. Take a look at where it’s been and where it’s going next.
If you’re a football fan, you’re an expert in everything relating to your favourite team.
You also know that the players you love sacrifice a lot to keep you entertained.
In fact, recent studies show that a shocking 99% of deceased NFL players who donated their brains to scientific research suffered from brain injuries as a result of the sport.
Luckily, improvements to the American football helmet are being made every day. Plus, things are certainly much safer for players than they were in the past. In this post, we’ll give you a brief history of the American football helmet.
The Invention Of The American Football Helmet
There are many different rumours circulating about when the first American football helmet was made. However, the story that’s stuck begins in 1893 and with one of the oldest rivalries in America: Army vs. Navy.
After a prominent Admiral had one too many close calls with severe head injuries, his doctor warned him that one more hit would permanently damage his mental capacity.
Instead of refusing to play, the Admiral headed over to his cobbler and ordered a moleskin hat with flaps designed to cover his ears. While the design no doubt drew laughs at first, eventually it became the most important piece of the American football uniform.
Interestingly, the Admiral’s design was also used by the American Navy, where it cushioned the heads of paratroopers in World War One.
As the sport grew more and more popular, it became clear that additional adjustments needed to be made to the design.
During the roaring 1920s, the material shifted from moleskin to tougher leather.
Keep in mind though, that helmets were not yet a regulatory requirement of football. They were completely optional until the 1940s.
The use of plastics in American helmets was a huge influence on the regulations surrounding helmets during gameplay.
While plastic helmets first came on the scene in 1939, the outbreak of World War Two required that available plastic be used to support the war effort — not to protect players’ heads.
However, even after the war, the plastic design of the helmets was far from perfect — or even safe!
In fact, oftentimes the helmets would shatter when players fell to the ground, sometimes making it just as dangerous as playing without a helmet at all. This led to an eventual ban on all plastic helmets by the NFL.
Fixing The Problem With Padding
Fortunately for the players of today, the NFL’s ban on plastic helmets only encouraged their designers to work harder to find the perfect solution.
A year after the initial ban, helmet makers debuted a new design. Not only was the plaster mix itself perfected, but a crucial component was added: padding.
This addition marked a turning point in helmet design. At last, players had found a way to protect themselves.
With the focus momentarily off of the structural design of the helmets, many players began to think about the aesthetic design.
During the late 1940s, the first ever “team logo” was designed: the intimidating horns of the Rams. These horns were painted on the sides of the padded helmet and the rest, as they say, is history.
Of course, visual appeal only remained in focus for a little while before additional problems and injuries began to plague players.
The reason for this?
The design of the helmets left the fronts of players faces completely available to injury, as they were still open-faced.
Raising The Bar
After one too many black eyes and bloody faces, in 1955 helmet designers introduced the concept of the helmet bar, designed to protect the front of the face.
While at first, this design consisted of an (often highly ineffective) single bar, it quickly evolved into a patchwork design that didn’t leave the faces of players quite so vulnerable.
Though certain positions wore (and still wear to this day) fewer bars than others, in general, a crisscross design could protect the faces — and teeth — of players more effectively.
By the early 1960s, these bars were worn by every player in the NFL. This was also the time when the NFL adopted an official design for their helmets, standardizing this method of protection throughout the league.
The Arrival Of Tech
Technology has influenced every industry: and American football is certainly no exception.
In 1995, the first ever radio was allowed to be included in the American football helmet. This allowed the coach and the quarterback to communicate.
Though even today, many teams are still working on perfecting their radio communication, it’s an addition that’s made more complicated plays possible. Tech has certainly helped teams all over the country to win more games.
Safety Is Still A Concern
Even with all the incredible advancements of American helmets, safety is still a priority.
Many medical professionals have spoken out about the importance of regulating safety procedures and requirements when it comes to helmet design.
Players have suffered from dementia, Alzheimer’s, and countless other health problems thanks to lax industry standards.
Still, to this day the official regulations surrounding helmets remain light. Players are allowed to pick whichever helmets they prefer — even if it means they don’t always choose the safest options.
As long as helmets have a white chin strap and a face mask that’s under 5/8 of an inch, they are deemed acceptable by the NFL.
Many hope that, in the next few years, more research and regulations will be pushed to keep players safe.
Want To Learn More About American Football?
No matter what you’re interested in, NFL history is a treasure trove of fascinating facts and fables.
Whether you’ve been a lifelong fan of American football, or if you’re just getting started, we have the information you need to know.
Of course, we also have the gear you need to go along with it!
Spend some time on our website to boost your NFL knowledge, and be sure to check out our products so you can show your support for your favourite team.