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.
The major difference between a youth and adult football helmet (besides the obvious size differences) is the shell material:
Youth football helmets are made with ABS plastic, which is lightweight,
durable, and designed to withstand a great amount of force, but nothing more than a large child could
are made with a substantially stronger, lighter-weight
Polycarbonate material, designed to offer maximum protection
from incredible impact forces, especially in helmet-to-helmet contact.
Youth leagues, like Pop Warner, make wearing adult Polycarbonate helmets illegal, since, in a helmet-to-helmet collision, a Polycarbonate helmet could
actually damage an ABS helmet, causing more harm and serious
injury to the other player
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. 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 football helmet for you:
Get the help of a friend, coach, or parent
Use a flexible measuring tape or string
Start to measure at a spot on the forehead, about 1" above your eyebrows (this is where the forehead pad of the helmet will rest)
Wrap the measuring tape around the widest circumference of the head to get the most accurate reading
Record the measurements in inches and centimeters
Consult the size chart of your favorite helmet, right on the product page, to find your proper size
A snug, comfortable helmet will always protect better than an ill-fitting one...no matter how advanced or expensive
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:
Put the helmet on, and adjust the chin strap so it fits snuggly and comfortably
Check to ensure there is no space between your temples and the inner helmet liner or padding
Make sure there is no space between your jaw and the jaw pads
If you purchased a helmet with an air liner and/or inflatable jaw pads, use a helmet pump to inflate the crown, so the helmet sits
correctly, and inflate the back of the head and jaw pads to fill in any extra space
Make sure the helmet does not move when you rotate or move your head
Make sure the helmet sits at the proper spot on the forehead and it gives you a clear view of the field
With different padding, shells, designs, technologies, and facemasks,
helmets can vary greatly in weight, from 3 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. While it's true that the more advanced, protective helmets tend to weigh more, it's important to know and expect how much
your helmet will weigh, to have 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.
When narrowing down your helmet choice, it's important to consider your age, league, skill level, needs, and budget.
As you get older and gain experience, you're probably going to need a
more advanced helmet, is generally going to cost you more. 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 football helmets to look at, that will meet your needs and fit your budget, consult the following, grouped by Age / League:
Pop Warmer (5 - 10 Years Old)
Very young players require basic protection, since they're not experiencing high or dangerous impact forces
Lightweight, affordable youth helmets are more than
Based on their affordability, design, and weight, for this age range, check out the:
High School / College / Professional (15 + Years Old)
By high school, all players should be wearing Adult football helmets
Polycarbonate shells, advanced liner systems, innovative padding, lighter and stronger facemasks, and better chin straps work to protect older players from the hard hits and greater impact forces on the field
Adult helmets are more protective, yet also heavier than youth helmets
Older players, committed to the game, should be prepared to spend more on their football helmets, as the more advanced, protective helmets tend to skew higher in price
Based on their advanced protection, superior performance, and innovative technologies, for this age range, check out the:
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 following are some advanced features of today's modern helmets
that you should look for in your next helmet, especially for older,
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
Dual Compression TPU
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 and protect players from concussions. 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
Energy Wedge Faceguard
A unique facemask connection, developed by Schutt, the energy wedge turns the facemask into a shock absorber, reducing impact by 15%, while
also widening the view for a better picture of the field.
Quick Release Face Guard System
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.
Inflatable Jaw Pads
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.
By Helmet Type:
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."
Quarterbacks need clear visibility to see all the way
down the field. They also get hit less than other players, so their facemasks are typically lighter, with more wide-open, basic bar
Running backs and wide receivers also need great
visibility to maneuver through traffic and catch passes. However, they're also getting hit pretty often, and need protection from the
competition. Typical WR and RB facemasks deliver minimal bar configurations, focused on oral and visual protection.
Linemen take a ton of punishment, and are right in the heart of the action, so they need the most protection, with minimal
visibility. That's why lineman facemasks usually feature multiple vertical and cross bar configurations, to keep other lineman from
getting their fingers or hands between the bars to cause injury.
By Skill Level / Budget:
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.
Carbon Steel is the standard, moderately weighted, durable facemask metal, great for younger, or newer players.
Stainless Steel is a bit lighter than Carbon, still strong, but a bit more expensive, so it is typically used by more skilled, or serious players like high school and college players.
Titanium is the lightest, strongest facemask metal around. Perfect for the incredibly serious or pro player, titanium facemasks give players the edge they need.
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:
Designing and developing some of the most technologically advanced, aggressive-looking helmets in the industry
Used and trusted by countless NFL and NCAA players
Large and varied line of helmets ranging in price, for everyone from youth to pro players
Priced higher than other helmet brands, but feature higher quality styles and technologies
Most known for:
DNA Pro +
The household name in football gear
Known for generations for delivering high quality equipment for youth, high school, college, and pro players
Developing countless innovations in the industry, from an extended Tru-Curve Shell to Concussion Reduction Technology
Full line of helmets for players of all ages and skill levels
Competitively priced and high quality
Most know for:
Decades of experience in the sports equipment world
Developers and innovators of countless advancements across every sport
Design advanced, protective, comfortable, and cost-effective
Relatively new to the football helmet game, Rawlings has already established itself as a major player
Most known for:
Long history of safe, comfortable, durable, strong, and affordable on-field protection equipment