Schutt Sports describes "The Perfect Fit"
Posted: Apr 13, 2004
In today’s environment, a football coach must be proficient at more than organizing practices and teaching football skills. He must not only coach the football team, he must run the football program. This entails selecting, ordering, sizing, issuing and fitting the protective equipment. The proper fitting of helmets can be a time-consuming process, however, it is very critical to a properly run football program. Equipment needs to be "issued and fit," not merely "handed out." Schedule and allow time for this very integral part of your program. Don't shortchange your athletes.
Proper fit is the key to head protection and player comfort. The goal is a customized fit for every player. A helmet that doesn't fit properly (i.e., snugly) will still provide protection, but may contribute to head injuries by shifting and exposing vulnerable areas that must be protected. The helmet should move with the head, i.e., move as the head moves, in the same direction and at the same speed. The helmet should not move independently of the head. The helmet shell, internal components and facemask all function as part of a helmet system designed to protect the head of the person wearing the helmet.
If it is possible to provide a player with a choice between two equal helmets or two styles of helmets, every effort should be made to accommodate his preference, as long as the person doing the fitting (equipment manager, football coach, athletic trainer) feels that
the preferred helmet or helmet style does indeed provide the proper fit. Allow the player input into selection and fitting of his helmet. Understand and learn what a properly fit helmet is and then trust your experience. However, the final decision as to a proper fit is a shared responsibility between the person doing the fitting and player being fit. If more than one helmet or style is judged to be acceptable, it is feasible to allow the player to chose based on his past experience in wearing that particular brand or style, as well as his feelings about the comfort of the product. If a player is uncomfortable in a particular brand and/or style of helmet, his performance may suffer due to a lack of confidence in the product.
All heads are not created equal, however, they are somewhat similar with respect to length, width and circumference. Shape and size are two of the more important factors in fitting. Other considerations would be:
RECOMMENDED PROCEDURE FOR FOOTBALL HELMET FITTING SESSION
NOTE: The following steps are a general guideline for all helmets. Each particular manufacturer may have a specific and/or different procedure for fitting their particular styles of helmets. Check with each individual manufacturer whose helmet is in your inventory. Most manufacturers, such as Schutt Sports, have helmet fitting videos
and fitting posters available to assists in your fitting.
1. Read and explain to the player the warning label on the back of the helmet. This will make sure the player understands the possible injuries and consequences, which may result from using the helmet improperly. Have the player sign the form acknowledging these dangers have been explained to him. Keep this signed form on file.
2. Determine the normal hair length of the athlete. His hair length when he is fit may not be the same length as it will be during the season, especially if the fitting is done in the off-season, e.g., in spring before the players leave for the summer.
3. Try to wet the athlete's hair prior to fitting the helmet. A damp cloth or some water applied to the hair makes the initial fitting easier and will also approximate game and practice conditions when the players perspire.
4. Before fitting, note any possible irregularities of the head. There are a variety of different head shapes encountered when fitting football helmets. Some of the more common types are: 1) round, full face; 2) square, full face with extended jaw; 3) oblong and narrow face (typically at the cheeks and temples); 4) sloping forehead with
high forehead profile. Any of these types may be found in combination with any of the others. Each head shape requires different considerations when fitting.
5. Take the player's head measurement to determine the proper shell size. To do this, use the Schutt Helmet Tape and measure the circumference of the head approximately one inch above the eyebrow.
6. During this preliminary fitting period, conduct an on head visual inspection. After you have put the helmet on the player's head, it may sometimes appear to fit during the visual inspection, but subsequent test will show the need for adjustments to be made. Most helmet systems today have air-inflated liners as part of their internal components. Inflate the liner and fit the helmet to "snugness" rather than "too loose" or "too tight." This will usually require several "pumps" of air. A "pump" is a full bottoming out when you squeeze. Some pumps, such as Schutt's, have an open/shut release valve which
allows you to make adjustments without removing the pump.
7. Check to see if player's ear openings are in center of helmet ear openings or below center. If the helmet's ear openings are too high, the helmet is too small or possibly the inner liner may be over inflated. If the helmet ear openings are too low, the helmet is too big or the inner liner is under inflated. Remove the helmet, make the necessary adjustments and put it back on for another trial fit. It may be necessary to try another size and/or style if the helmet is still too small or too big after initial adjustments are made.
8. Check to see that the eyebrows are approximately 1-1-1/2" below the helmet's front rim. A general rule of thumb is to use 1-1-1/2 finger widths. If there is a gap of more than 1 inch, generally the helmet is too small and if there is less, it is too large. If the helmet is too small, it causes the facemask to sit too high and can cause vision
problems. If the helmet is too big, it can also cause vision problems as it sits too low and is prone to move around on the player's head.
9. Try to rotate the helmet side-to-side. There are various ways to do this. One is to ask the player to "bull" his neck. Grab the faceguard in the middle and attempt to move the helmet from side to side. There should be some movement of the forehead skin
and hair with the helmet, but it should not slip. Using the center loops on the faceguard as a guide, the nose should stay within a line directly down the center of the helmet and the center of the loop. If the nose moves to the right and left beyond these loops, generally the fit needs to be adjusted or the helmet is still too big.
10. Check the crown adjustment of the helmet. Again, there are various ways to do this. One method is to request the player to clasp his hands over the crown of the helmet and push straight down. The pressure should be felt on the crown. This test also cross-checks the eyebrow test.
11. Check the forehead pressure and back-to-front fit. One method to do this is to have the player rotate his hands down to the rear of the helmet from the crown test. Keep the hands clasped together and attempt to push the helmet forward. Usually a gap of a finger width or less between the forehead and front sizer is acceptable. If there is a gap of considerable size, the fitting may need to be adjusted.
12. Check the jaw pads to see that they tit correctly. They should be neither undersized nor oversized. They should follow the contours of the cheeks. Generally, a round full face or a square full face will require a thinner size jaw pad than the standard issue size, and an oblong or narrow face will require a thicker size jaw pad. If needed,
other sizes are available for this purpose.
13. Check the chin strap fit. The function of the chin strap is to hold the helmet in place. Make sure the cup is centered on the point of the chin and all four straps have the slack taken out. Begin fitting with the back or lower chin strap first. It is important that the high hookup chin straps go underneath the facemask. Due to its location, if it is hit during the course of play and pops off, the faceguard will hold it in place. If it is attached over the guard, it doesn't lay flat and is more prone to coming off. When putting high hook-up chin straps underneath the facemask, slide the chin strap and buckle underneath next to the nose bumper as this is the widest part of the mask, then
slide the chin strap out to the attachment point. Do not allow your players to play with unsnapped chin straps. This can cause the helmet to pop off on contact.
14. Check the faceguard. There should be adequate spacing between the faceguard and the tip of the nose. If the guard is too close, there may be "rebound" problems. If the guard is too far away, there may be room for a blow to be delivered underneath the guard. Generally, three finger widths from the tip of the nose is acceptable.
15. Check the fit in the rear of the helmet. The occipital lobe should be covered by the shell. The rear of the helmet should cradle the neck. It should not chafe from a tight fit, nor leave a large gap from a loose fit.
16. Check the player's vision, both peripherally, as well as up and down. Peripherally, the player should be able to track a finger about 180 degrees, up and down to about 75 degrees.
Coaches have a responsibility to do everything they can to ensure the safety of their players. That begins with making sure their equipment fits properly before they even set foot on the field. Every player is someone's child. Follow these suggestions and you are on your way to a safer season.
- Compiled by American Football Monthly with the help of Billy Rice of Schutt Sports