NOCASE sent me the most recent press release; pertaining to the aftermarket/third-party additions to helmets. Here it is in full;
Certification to NOCSAE Standards and Add-on Helmet Products
OVERLAND PARK, Kansas – August 8, 2013 – The National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) has released the following statement regarding equipment certified to NOCSAE standards and add-on helmet products.
“Products designed to be added to a football helmet are being marketed and sold; some are intended to measure impacts, while others are expressly marketed as improving a helmet’s performance. Some products claim the ability to protect against concussions. Regardless of the truth of such claims, the addition of those products to a certified helmet changes the model, by definition, under the NOCSAE standards.
“For many years NOCSAE standards have defined a helmet model as a helmet “intended to be identical in every way, except for size.” Any changes, additions or alterations of the model, except for size, color or graphics, even if made by the original manufacturer, require that a new model name be created and a separate certification testing process begin for that new model. This concept of limiting certification to a specific model is commonly found in national and international helmet standards.
- NOCSAE itself does not certify any product, it does not “approve” or “disapprove” of any product, and has no authority to grant exemptions or waivers to the requirements imposed by the standards it writes.
- The addition of an item(s) to a helmet previously certified without those item(s) creates a new untested model. Whether the add-on product changes the performance or not, the helmet model with the add-on product is no longer “identical in every aspect” to the one originally certified by the manufacturer.
- When this happens, the manufacturer which made the original certification has the right, under the NOCSAE standards, to declare its certification void. It also can decide to engage in additional certification testing of the new model and certify the new model with the add-on product, but it is not required to do so.
- Companies which make add-on products for football helmets have the right to make their own certification of compliance with the NOCSAE standards on a helmet model, but when that is done, the certification and responsibility for the helmet/third-party product combination would become theirs, (not the helmet manufacturer). That certification would be subject to the same obligations applicable to the original helmet manufacturer regarding certification testing, quality control and quality assurance and licensure with NOCSAE.
- Products such as skull caps, headbands, mouth guards, ear inserts or other items that are not attached or incorporated in some way into the helmet are not the types of products that create a new model as defined in the NOCSAE standards and are not items which change the model definition.”
I read it simply as this;
- If companies want to sell equipment that alters the original tested/certified helmet THEY or the individual must re-certify each helmet model it is placed on – adult and youth separate but not sizes.
- After re-certification the third-party is now responsible for the liability of the helmet, basically indemnifying the helmet maker at NOCSAE
- And as we have discussed any product that does not alter the padding or helmet is not under this clause.
I know some are not happy with this decision and even MomsTEAM has clearly stated that this action may slow down progress and innovation when it comes to helmet sensors, but from a business and legal sense this is a card that NOCSAE must play. And before people start thinking conspiracy theory here; the helmet manufacturers were not part of this – but don’t think for a second this is not good news for them. I keep using the analogy of your vehicle; if you add aftermarket items to your transmission or engine it voids the warranty. Think about it, if you made a product with certain guarantees would you be willing to keep liability for that product if someone slapped something on it that you didn’t make?
Also I have not read anywhere where this will be deemed “illegal” and helmets cannot be worn if there is not the re-certification, all this means is that if one gets injured and wants to involve NOCSAE or the helmet makers in litigation and an aftermarket product was affixed to the helmet they are distancing themselves and pushing the liability on the new product/company. Which is quite a risk one of these smaller companies must either accept or protect against.
Why would it be fair for any company to ride the legal shield of helmet makers or NOCSAE in the event of catastrophic injury, shouldn’t they have to be part of the protection plan as well?
If companies don’t have the resources to test the helmets and their products added on then they will have to innovate new ideas. Perhaps taking a step back is not so bad, but we will see…