As athletes know, all sports have some amount of risk. While chance of injury cannot be completely negated, it can be decreased by proper technique and equipment. For many sports, this includes a helmet. In the following paragraphs I will cover the helmet requirements of common sports.
Hockey helmets should fit snug enough that they do not move around on the head, but not so tight it is uncomfortable. Estimating your helmet size may be accomplished by measuring the circumference of your head a half inch above your eyebrows. As with most brands, there may be differences in size and shape amongst helmet manufacturers. Finally, all youth and college athletes are required to have a face mask attached to their helmet. Masks may be wire, a plastic face shield, or a combination of the two. A combination mask may be ideal, as it protects the eyes the best while allowing more ventilation. A safety certified helmet will have a Hockey Equipment Certification Council (HECC) sticker on the back, which should remain on.
As with a hockey helmet; biking, skiing and horseback riding helmets should fit snugly. Some are sold with multiple sized pads that may be added or removed to perfect the fit. The helmet should cover the forehead down to about two finger widths above the eyebrows. With the helmet adjusted only one or two fingers should be able to fit between the chin and the strap. An easy way to test fit is a “shake test.” With the helmet proper tightened, shake your head around. If the helmet moves on its own, it is too big. Finally, only buy helmets new and with a safety certification sticker on them.
Football helmets require slightly more alterations to get a perfect fit. They consist of three groups of inflatable pads to adjust fit. To get an estimate of helmet size measure the circumference of the head one inch above the eyebrows. Once the helmet is in place adjust the helmet height by inflating the crown pad until the helmet rests one inch above the eyebrows. Next, inflate the back pad followed by the face pads. The cut outs should fall directly over the ears. Football helmets should be extremely snug, moving the helmet up and down and side to side should also move the head. In addition to the safety certification requirements, football helmets should be reconditioned at least every two years.
Helmets are designed to help protect the head, but are only of any use if they are fitted properly. Most sports are strict about helmet safety and regulations, but when not competing this responsibility is yours. Helmets are able to withstand the occasional impact, but if there is major trauma they should be replaced. For this reason never buy a used helmet, there is no way of knowing its history. The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) tests helmets extensively and based on the requirements of the sport they are being used for. For example; skiing helmets are tested in cold weather, horseback riding helmets are tested with simulations of a kick to the head and also the impact of a fall. Helmets are not interchangeable; shape, material and even where ventilation is located is designed with a specific sport in mind. A complete list of helmet standards may be found on the ASTM website.