Football Helmet Buyers Guide
Frequently Asked Football Helmet Questions:
At what age should I upgrade to an Adult helmet?
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:
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 exude.
- Adult helmets are made
with a substantially stronger, lighter-weight Polycarbonate
material, designed to offer maximum protection for incredible impact
force, especially in helmet-to-helmet contact.
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
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How do I know what size helmet is right for me?
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:
- 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
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How do I know my helmet fits correctly?
A snug, comfortable helmet will always protect better than an
ill-fitting one...no matter how advanced or expensive the helmet.
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
- Make sure the helmet sits at the proper spot on the forehead and
it gives you a clear view of the field
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How much do football helmets weigh?
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.
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Which helmet is right for my age and skill level?
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:
- Pop Warmer (5 - 10 Years Old)
- Very young players require basic protection, since they are
not experiencing high or dangerous impact forces
- Lightweight, affordable youth helmets are suggested for this
- Based on their affordability, design, and weight, for this
age range, check out the:
- Middle School (10 - 14 Years Old)
- Older children and young teens should still wear youth
helmets, but might consider upgrading to adult helmets as they
get closer to high school
- Middle school players are getting stronger, and are hitting
and getting hit harder than ever before
- These players need more protective helmets, that are still
lightweight and designed for young players
- Youth versions of popular adult helmets, with lightweight
shells and advanced padding are always great helmets for this
- Based on their protection, performance, light weight, and
size, for this age range, check out the:
- High School / College / Professional (15 + Years Old)
- By high school, all players should be wearing Adult football
- 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
- 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:
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What features should I look for in a new helmet?
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. This technology can be found in the Schutt Vengeance
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.
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How does the helmet's shell affect its performance?
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.
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.
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.
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Which facemask is right for me?
choice depends on your helmet, position, skill level, and ultimately,
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."
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.
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What are the differences between the major football helmet brands?
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:
- ION 4D
- DNA Pro +
- The household name in football gear
- Known for generations for delivering high quality equipment for
youth, high school, college, and pro players
- Full line of helmets for players of all ages and skill levels
- Competitively priced and high quality
- Most know for:
- Revolution Speed
- Revolution Edge
- Decades of experience in the sports equipment world
- Developers and innovators of countless advancements across every
- 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:
- Quantum Plus
- Long history of safe, comfortable, durable, strong, and
affordable on-field protection equipment
- Designed for youth to high school players
- Traditionally styled helmets
- Affordably priced and safe
- Most known for:
- A2000 Pro-Elite
- A2010 Grid Elite
- Y-4 Elite II
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