What happens to high school football helmets in off season

Local 4 Defenders reveals how football helmets should be inspected

When football season is over, high schools should pack up the helmets and send them off to facilities to be reconditioned and recertified.

Capitol Varsity Sports, Inc. in Oxford, Ohio, reconditions equipment including helmets, including helmets for some metro Detroit high schools.

Bob Fawley, owner of Capitol Varsity Sports, Inc., said everything is inventoried, then the helmets are taken down to their shell. The facemasks are also removed. "Unless you take those parts out of the helmet, unless you take everything apart and take the screws out, you're not going to see the cracks and the problems that may be involved in that helmet as well as the components that might be defective," said Fawley.

Defenders: How safe are your high school's football helmets?

The shells are checked for cracks and excessive wear. Fawley told Local 4 an important part of the process is that the helmets and parts are handled by several people throughout his facility.

"It can be rejected it anywhere," said Fawley.

Fawley said about nine to 12 percent of helmets are rejected.

When the helmets are disassembled, the age of the helmet is also documented.

Helmets that are 10 years or older must be replaced because they can no longer be used.

Fawley said they notify schools of helmets that are too old or rejected for other reasons.

Helmets are buffed and sanded to prepare them to be painted.

They are also washed and air dried before they are moved to the paint room. The helmets are repainted using manufacture-approved materials.

Once they are painted, the parts are then re-assembled. All internal parts are inspected, any defective parts are replaced with new ones. Every day at Capitol Varsity, two to four percent of all helmets that are to be reconditioned are put through drop-testing to make sure they meet the NOCSAE standard for safety. They are tested before and after the reconditioning process. All helmet manufacturers must make helmets that meet the safety standard set by  the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment.
Under the NOCSAE test helmets either pass or fail based on their ability to reduce impact forces to the head as measured by the severity index.

NOCSAE tells Local 4: "The decision whether to require annual recertification is made at the school, club or program level. NOCSAE strongly recommends annual football helmet reconditioning or recertification so that helmets can be inspected by a qualified person to identify and correct potential problems, such as mismatched or altered padding or broken shells. Research has shown no decline in helmet performance from its initial certification over a five year period."

Fawley also recommends reconditioning.

"What you want to be able to do as a school, as a customer, as an entity, coach , an AD, you want to be able to stand up if something happens to one of your athletes and say I did everything that was there, that I had at access to, to make the helmets safe.  I think by following our procedures and our standard you've done that, at this point," said Fawley.

After all of the internal parts and facemask are re-installed, the helmet goes through a final inspection. 

A final sticker is also placed on the helmet letting anyone who handles it know when it has been recertified to meet NOCSAE standards and the year it was done.

Fawley said parents should look for a few labels on their sons' helmet, including a NOCSAE label on the outside of the helmet. It can be an imprinted design or a sticker. 

He also said helmets should also have an exterior warning label along with the size of the helmet. Then, on the inside of the helmet, a NOCSAE sticker should say when the helmet was last reconditioned.  It should also include the name of the reconditioning company.

Parents should ask their schools and youth football programs whether their helmets are reconditioned and recertified annually. All the metro Detroit school districts Local 4 checked with said they do recondition their helmets.

If you would like to know more about the reconditioning process, click here.

Copyright 2014 by ClickOnDetroit.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.