Generally speaking, football helmets are permissible at all levels of play provided: 1) they meet the NOCSAE standard (at the time of manufacture); and 2) they have been properly recertified (Riddell recommends that helmets are reconditioned and recertified annually). Recently, as third-party evaluations of football helmets have become increasingly publicized, questions about those evaluations have arisen.
As the industry leader in football helmet technology and innovation, Riddell has consistently maintained that laboratory testing is but one data point for consideration when selecting a football helmet. Unlike other manufacturers, Riddell does not design its helmets to a particular laboratory test. Rather, Riddell is focused on on-field protective performance, which includes fit, comfort, wearability, the needs of equipment and medical staff, as well as its own rigorous laboratory and field testing.
Riddell helmets are also informed by its proprietary database of over 5 million on-field head impacts collected over 15 years through the company’s leading sensor technology. Laboratory testing is an evolving science and Riddell supports continued head protection research.
Third-Party Laboratory Testing
Two laboratory tests – the NFL/NFLPA Helmet Laboratory Testing Performance Results and the Virginia Tech Helmet Ratings – have received recent attention. Importantly, the NFL/NFLPA states that “the laboratory test conditions are intended to represent potentially concussive head impacts in the NFL and the results of this study should not be extrapolated to collegiate, high school, or youth football”.
In addition, the NFL/NFLPA results include several helmets rarely ever worn on NFL fields (or any other level of play, for that matter) as these helmet models were designed specifically to perform well in third-party testing. As a result, these helmet models skew the results.
The NFL/NFLPA’s results also feature a series of helmets in their “Prohibited” category. Of note, the only Riddell helmet included in that category is the VSR-4, which the company discontinued in 2011 to accelerate the transition to Riddell’s newer helmet technology.
Based on data provided by the NFL/NFLPA, Riddell helmets worn by NFL players outperformed other competitors in on-field concussion rates. The Riddell Speed and SpeedFlex platforms have consistently protected players across all levels of the game.
Finally, when it comes to the Virginia Tech Helmet Ratings, all of the Riddell helmets tested received the best available 5-STAR Rating from Virginia Tech in its most recent publication. Unlike the NFL/NFLPA results, Virginia Tech uses collegiate and high school athletes as the basis for its research. Ultimately, Riddell football helmets have a proven track record of improving on-field protection and performance.