Gridiron Guide: How To Buy The Right Football Helmet

It’s critical for your football helmet to offer a proper fit. Use this guide to begin to determine the proper measurements.

Football helmets play a vital role in player protection on the gridiron. All helmets at DICK’S Sporting Goods meet standards of the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment, or NOCSAE.

Please note no helmet can completely prevent an athlete from injury.

Learn more about the components of your football helmet before gearing up for the season.

SHELL

Football Helmet Shell

A helmet’s outer component is called the shell. This component acts as a barrier against impact.

  • Strong, durable construction
  • Typically made of acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS) plastic or polycarbonate alloy
  • Ventilation throughout the shell increases airflow to promote heat management and comfort
  • Some models have an air system that assists in tightening helmet pads to your head’s specific shape, providing a custom fit

PADDING

Football Helmet Padding

Two different types of padding may be used to cushion the inside of your helmet’s shell. Helmet padding is either pre-sized or inflatable. You can use thicker or thinner pads to better adjust your fit. If you use a helmet with inflatable pads, you’ll need the proper padding pump for use.

Keep in mind, there should be no space between the temple of the head and the helmet, or between the jaw and the helmet. A well-fitted helmet should not move or shift when worn.

Thermoplastic Urethane (TPU) Foam

  • Does not require compression time or a “break-in” period like regular foam
  • Absorbs a significant amount of shock upon impact

Vinyl Nitrile Foam

  • Efficient shock absorption
  • Comfortably protects the athlete
  • May require a break-in period so padding is not too tight against the head

FACEMASK

Facemasks can be purchased with or without your football helmet. Football facemasks are typically made of carbon steel or stainless steel for strong yet lightweight protection. Always make sure the facemask you buy is compatible with your helmet.  A variety of facemask designs are available, including the following:

  • Oral Protection Only: Clear field of vision, ideal for quarterbacks, defensive backs and wide receivers
  • Jaw & Oral Protection: More protection for blocking and hitting, ideal for running backs and tight ends
  • Nose & Oral Protection: Protection for receivers and running backs, while still having a clear field of vision
  • Nose, Jaw & Oral Protection: Beneficial for linemen who encounter constant hard hitting
  • Eyeglass & Oral Protection: Protection for linemen and other players who experience hard contact

Some brands now offer helmets with a quick-release facemask feature, which allows faster access to a player during an injury situation.

HELMET ACCESSORIES 

  • Chin straps attach directly to your helmet and come in hard or soft styles. There should be no slack between the strap and the helmet, providing a snug and secure fit for the player. Mouthguards protect your mouth and teeth from injury during rough play.
  • Eyeshields and visors fit into your facemask, without obstructing your vision. While they are not required, they act as an extra eye protection piece. Be sure that they are compatible with your facemask. Check with your coach to see if your league allows them.

FITTING YOUR FOOTBALL HELMET 

It’s critical for your football helmet to offer a proper fit. Use this guide to begin to determine the proper measurements.

Measure Your Head

  1. Have a friend or parent take your measurements to ensure accuracy.
  2. Wrap measuring tape 1-inch above your eyebrows, around your head. This is where your helmet will rest.
  3. Record your circumference.

Once you have your measurements, refer to the specific size chart on the product page.

After Purchasing your Helmet

  1. Put on your helmet.
  2. If you have inflatable pads, you will now need to pump air into the designated areas.
  3. Pump air until the helmet feels snug front to back and side to side.
  4. If your helmet has interchangeable pads, you can change out thinner for thicker ones, so your head is secure.
  5. The helmet should still be sitting 1-inch above the eyebrow.
  6. Interlock your fingers and press down on the top of the helmet.
  7. You should feel pressure on the crown, and not on the brow.
  8. There should be no space between your temple and the helmet, and your jaw and the helmet.
  9. Test moving the helmet left to right, up and down. There should be no shifting or twisting of the forehead or skin against the pads. All should move as one.