New High School Helmet Rule

We have all seen it, the rolling helmet on a play that has seemed to have lost its player.  Now if this occurs, not due to a penalty, the player will have to sit out the next play.  This is one of eight rules/changes that the National Federation of State High School Associations announced in a NFHS Football Rules Press Release 2012;

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (February 9, 2012) — High school football players must sit out one play next year if their helmet comes off while the ball is live. In cases where the helmet comes completely off without it being directly attributable to a foul by the opponent, the player will have to leave the game for at least one down.  This addition to Rule 3-5-10 was one of eight rules changes approved by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Football Rules Committee at its January 20-22 meeting in Indianapolis. All rules changes were subsequently approved by the NFHS Board of Directors.  “The committee made this rules change after reviewing data from multiple states regarding the frequency of helmets coming off during live-ball play,” said Julian Tackett, chair of the Football Rules Committee and commissioner of the Kentucky High School Athletic Association. “It is the committee’s hope that this serves notice for schools to properly fit players with helmets to reduce the incidence of these situations and remind the players not to take steps that alter the fit.”

Of the other seven rule changes two seemed to be associated with injury risk: blocking below the waist and contact on a kick off.  This is good because according to the NFHS football is highly participated in;

Football is the No. 1 participatory sport for boys at the high school level with 1,134,377 participants in the 2010-11 school year, according to the High School Athletics Participation Survey conducted by the NFHS through its member state associations. In addition, the survey indicated there were 1,561 girls who played football in 2010-11.


7 thoughts on “New High School Helmet Rule

  1. BryanATC February 10, 2012 / 13:46

    It appears the NCAA is going to suggest the same rule about having to leave the game for one play as well.

    Two thoughts on these rules.

    I’ve watched many a play where someone has lost their helmet. Most often it is a player who was not the ball carrier and gets up appearing 100% unaffected and aware of his surroundings. Meanwhile the ball carrier gets up, turns his helmet from sideways to straight and staggers slightly back to the huddle. I’m not saying an instance where a helmet comes off shouldn’t warrant a closer look. I’m just not sure a mandatory trip to the sideline is necessarily warranted. Now if the simple goal of the rule is to ensure better fitting of the helmet and chinstrap and not simply potential of head injury, ok I’ll buy that one.

    The second thought goes to why these helmets seem to be popping off with more regularity. At the high school level I think the majority of reasons are improperly fitted and maintained helmets. At the college and pro levels (and no the NFL has not issued this rule yet) my meager observational opinion appears to indicate that hair style choice seems to be prevalent. When watching on TV it appears most of those heading off to find their helmets have the bigger/bushier hair styles. The other times are usually linemen who managed to fight through a not-called illegal hands to the face/helmet ripped-off.

    Again, I don’t know what the scientific data would show, but most often a helmet coming off doesn’t seem to be the result of any horrendous hit to the head. There is usually an errant hand, a weak chin strap, etc. I kind of understand the reasoning, but again the safety focus seems to rest on the result not the cause.

    • BryanATC February 13, 2012 / 14:05

      After reading some other articles and additional quotes from NFHS it appears this rule is based solely on the fact helmets were coming off and not for making sure a player is evaluated.

      This rule is a punishment for those coaches who do not take the time to continually ensure their players equipment is properly fitted. The ones who care more about their players being 1 second late, not saying “yes coach” fast enough, or players taking an extra swig of water.

      Now who do you think will actually have to take the time to recheck during the season whether the helmets are still fitted correctly? The single ATC who has 10 other sports to cover or the 12 football coaches who need to break down that game film from 3 years ago?

      (Sorry, I’ll get off my soap box now).

    • Richard September 1, 2012 / 14:37

      You don’t understand that if a ball carrier get hurt by way of head injury, then there is a liability issue on the part of the officiating (game) crew.
      The player and/or his family may/could file a civil liability law suit and if
      you didn’t know this activity is not cheap financially. I myself officiate football games on the (NFHS) high school level and I don’t want to have
      any part of financial settlement.

  2. Michael Hopper February 13, 2012 / 18:39

    Bryan, I personally don’t care who does it! I want the helmet to fit correctly and to be worn properly at all times. I had a kid last year who made it into the second week of the season with his chin strap on upside down! And the only reason it was discovered then was because I was trying to help him adjust it during pre-game…

    Protective equipment fitting is one of the responsibilities of the athletic trainer.

    • BryanATC February 13, 2012 / 19:37


      I know it’s our job as ATC’s for protective equipment fitting, which I do nearly all of. That is, after I have to individually cut out access to the air bladders on EVERY helmet because our coach wants the decals put on by the vendor every year. So that’s 100 helmets I have to work on just to get air into the helmets the first time EVERY year. Never mind I also have 7 other sports and a total of 15 teams of athletes to focus on as well. The football coach refused to discern the difference between “sizing” a helmet and “fitting” a helmet. Since a helmet rep came in and individually “sized” each athlete’s helmet, he said he didn’t feel it was necessary to actually worry about air in the helmet because they should fit correctly. If I wanted to add air I would have to cut the decals myself. That’s the insanity I’m already dealing with, let alone if he screams about getting them “re-fitted” every single week.

      So who fit your athlete’s helmet if he made it into the second week of the season with the chin strap upside down?

  3. Glenn Beckmann February 14, 2012 / 07:46

    Honestly, that’s where I think those of us in the helmet industry can help you out. We (disclosure: I work for Schutt Sports) have to do more to make sure not only the coaches learn the importance of helmet fitting, but that players know it, as well. That’s why we have constantly stressed that the most important factor in extracting the best performance from your helmet is to have it properly fitted. We are sponsoring the Football University Tackling
    Academy with former NFL coach Thurmond Moore and our message to the players and coaches will be that part of each individual’s safety “protocol” on the field should include proper tackling technique AND the proper fitting of his helmet. For our part, that has been our message for nearly 30 years and we continue to look for effective ways to magnify that message. It will take a while for poor coaches like yours to work their way out of the system, but it will happen.

    FTR: you can always contact your local Schutt dealer to help you with properly fitting the helmets, not just sizing. I can’t speak to weekly re-fittings but I know they’ll eagerly help at the beginning of the season. Your coach may not be too happy but at least you’ll have the peace of mind that your helmets are on correctly.

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