There is no "definitive" age barrier between youth and adult football helmets, but generally speaking, players should look to upgrade to adult-level helmets in middle school, or between 12 and 14 years old. In fact, 14 may even be pushing it a little bit.
The major difference between a youth and adult football helmet (besides the obvious size differences) is the shell material:
Youth leagues such as Pop Warner make wearing adult Polycarbonate helmets illegal, since, in a helmet-to-helmet collision, a Polycarbonate helmet could damage an ABS helmet, and the seriously injure the player inside. Conversely, High School leagues exclusively require Polycarbonate helmets to better protect their players from the increased force of hits between stronger, older players.
To get the right size helmet, it's important to find an accurate measurement of your head to use as a guide when buying a new helmet. It's simple and quick, and all you need is a flexible measuring tape (or a string) and a buddy! Check out this video, or follow the simple steps below to get the right size helmet for you:
A snug, comfortable helmet will always protect better than an ill-fitting one...no matter how advanced or expensive the helmet. So to make sure you're getting the best protection possible, when you get your helmet from Sports Unlimited, run through these quick steps to make sure it fits correctly:
With different padding, shells, designs, technologies, and facemasks, helmets can vary greatly in weight, from 3lbs to almost 5lbs. This may not see like a lot, but all that weight on your head can slow down your performance or strain your neck muscles, especially for younger, developing players. Now while its true the more advanced, protective helmets tend to weigh more, its important to know and expect how much your helmet will weigh, to get a complete picture of your helmet before you buy it.
Below is a list of football helmet weights. Keep in mind that only Large helmets were weighed, so other sizes will vary slightly in weight.
*Total weight includes the attached facemask or standard ROPO facemask designed for the helmet, chinstrap, and hardware.
|Schutt Vengeance DCT||2.85||1.2||4.25|
|Schutt Vengeance VTD II||2.95||1.2||4.35|
|Schutt Vengeance Z10||3.65||1.2||4.6|
|Schutt Vengeance Pro||3.65||1.2||4.6|
|Schutt Air XP Pro VTD II||3.1||1.3||4.45|
|Schutt Air XP Pro||2.65||1.2||4.05|
|Schutt Air XP||2.6||1.2||3.95|
|Riddell Revo Speed||-||-||4.1|
|Schutt Youth Vengeance DCT||2.8||1.2||4.2|
|Schutt Youth Air XP Pro||2.5||1.2||3.85|
|Schutt Vengeance DCT Hybrid+||2.9||1.2||4.35|
|Schutt Vengeance DCT Hybrid||2.8||1.2||4.15|
|Schutt Recruit Hybrid||2.8||1.2||4.45|
|Schutt Air Standard V||1.9||1.2||3.25|
|Riddell Speedflex Youth||-||-||4.2|
|Riddell Revo Speed Youth||-||-||3.5|
|Xenith Epic Youth||3.65||1.2||4.6|
|Xenith X2E Youth||2.75||1.2||4.35|
When narrowing down your helmet choice, it's important to consider your age, league, skill level, needs, and budget. Typically, as you age and gain experience, you're going to need a better helmet, which you can certainly spend more money on. But when you're young and just starting, there's really no need to drop serious funds on a helmet, unless you really want to. So, to give you a better idea of which helmets to look at, that will meet your needs and fit your budget, consult the following, grouped by Age / League:
Football helmets all utilize the same standard features, a shell, inner padding, facemask, chin strap, and possibly a liner. The types of materials may vary, helmet to helmet, but all use the same basic design. However, brands like Schutt and Riddell have worked hard developing, testing, and implementing advanced and innovative technologies into their helmets to improve safety, comfort, and performance well beyond the standard.
The following are some advanced features of today's modern helmets that you should look for in your next helmet, especially for older, serious players:
One of the leading helmet padding technologies, Thermoplastic Urethane or TPU, was first developed by Schutt for use in the U.S. Air Force, and has since found its way onto the football field in some of the most popular and safest helmets of the passed five years. Anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and virtually indestructible, TPU holds up better than all standard padding before it, and doesn't compress like foam. This keeps it performing at peak levels, even after seasons and seasons of impacts. (Found in Schutt Jaw Pads as well for mandible protection)
The next-generation of TPU padding utilizes two layers of the material, to protect players from frequent low-impact hits, and infrequent violent collisions. Two types of TPU, one a soft low-density TPU, the other a standard, stiffer TPU, are laid one on top of the other, to absorb the maximum amount of impact. This technology can be found in the Schutt Vengeance helmet.
Found in many helmets from Schutt, Riddell, Adams, and more, Air Liners come in all types of designs, but the basic principle is always the same. Inflatable air pockets, strategically placed in the liner, are inflated with a pump, and fill out any extra space between the shell, padding, and the player's head. Air Liners work to improve and customize the fit of a helmet, to give players the most snug, secure, and safe helmet possible. Air Liners wrap around the head and at the top of the crown, to lift the helmet off the head for the best view through the facemask.
Found in modern Riddell football helmets, the Quick Release is a push-button face mask release system that almost instantly detaches the facemask in case of emergency.
Similar to Air Liners, inflatable jaw pads are designed to fill with air and create a more snug, secure fit around the mandible area.
The shell is the front line of defense against impact force. It's the hardest, most durable part of the helmet, and takes the brunt of any big hit. Typically, football helmet shells are made with either ABS Plastic (for youth helmets) or a Polycarbonate Alloy (for adult and pro helmets), and built with a standard or oversized offset.
Shell offset refers to the amount of space between the shell and the player's skull. The larger the offset, the further the force needs to travel after an impact, to reach the head.
Oversized offset or Large Standoff helmets are larger shells, designed to absorb more impact force than a smaller offset. Large offset helmets also allow more room for padding and cushioning. The drawback is that they make for a larger profile and heavier helmet, so typically helmets with an oversized offset are NOT suggested for youth players.
Standard offset or traditional shells are normal sized shells with typical amounts of padding and cushioning. They don't offer the same impact protection as oversized offsets, but the traditional feel, profile, and weight, make them popular with all types of players.
Facemask choice depends on your helmet, position, skill level, and ultimately, your budget.
Facemasks are designed to fit certain types of helmets, brands, and styles. For instance, Schutt facemasks typically can only fit Schutt helmets. Similarly, advanced helmets like the Riddell 360, Schutt ION 4D, and Schutt Vengeance, have advanced, re-designed facemasks that only fit those helmet respectively. When you find the helmet for you, check out our facemask selection to see what facemask options you have, for that helmet in particular.
Facemasks utilize metal bars across the mouth and eyes to protect the face without obstructing visibility. But the configuration of these bars can differ, favoring field of view over protection, and vice versa. These configurations are what makes certain facemasks "position specific."
Facemasks are all made with one of three types of metal. They range in strength, weight, and price, and are meant for players of different skill levels and budgets. For instance, a serious high school or college player committed to the game may want to spring for a high-level facemask, to give himself the edge in the game. On the other hand, a young player with a tight budget and developing skills may not need, or need to afford, a high-end facemask.
Right now, the football helmet industry is dominated by two main brands; Schutt and Riddell. They produce the highest rated, most technologically advanced helmets in the game, and both can be seen regularly on almost every NFL player in the game. There are other second and third tier brands that offer great helmets at affordable prices, which you should also keep in mind when looking for a new helmet. Let's take a closer look at each brand to get a better idea of what they have to offer: