Home » Brain Sentry » NOCSAE Ruling On Helmet Sensors Generates Controversy

Throwing the baby out with the bathwater?

NOCSAE Ruling On Helmet Sensors Generates Controversy

Voiding of helmet certification if helmet modified in any way criticized as a step back for player safety

SG Helmets. Ashlee Quintero, National Sales Director for SG Helmets, a new lightweight football helmet whose introduction has been met with generally positive reviews, including 4-star rating in the 2013 Virginia Tech STAR ratings, told MomsTEAM that SG "concurs with NOCSAE's position on the use of after-market products in the absence of re-certification."

With respect to after-market protective helmet padding, Quintero noted that "SG has spent years designing what we believe to be the safest football helmet on the market" so that the company saw "no need for additional padding, especially because they add weight."

"Our helmet's weight [about half that of other football helmets] is part of its performance and additional weight is unnecessary. Many people have approached us about after-market padding but the truth is we have yet to test such a product with positive results. If there existed a padding or material that we felt could make our helmet safer, it would already be standard in our helmet."

Helmet sensors, however, represented "a different issue than additional padding," said Quintero. "Should someone like to utilize sensors in our helmets that would not negatively affect performance, we would want to verify performance through the appropriate process of internal testing, and then NOCSAE certification. We believe the requirement of additional testing is the best way to protect athletes and their families from what she characterized as 'snake-oil' sales claims."

Rawlings: Kurt Hunzeker, a spokesperson for Rawlings, said the company supported the NOCSAE statement, as it "mirrors what Rawlings outlines in its football helmet warranty," which states that it does not apply in the event of "attachment of incompatible components and attachment of components, not in accordance with Rawlings' instructions."

Brady Davis wearing Rawlings helmetDid Rawlings believe it was appropriate for NOCSAE to have given helmet manufacturers such as Rawlings control over certification of technology by third-party competitors? Hunzeker said he "did not believe that's the correct question. We the manufacturers are not certifying any after-market accessory carte blanche. We the manufacturers should protect what we have developed and certified via NOCSAE. If any manufacturer works in partnership with an after-market accessory [company], then they can secure 3rd party NOCSAE approval." He cited as an example the NFL helmet communication system, noting that, "Every year, we have sent the NFL 3rd-party NOCSAE approval with installation instructions so the equipment managers can install the communication systems in Rawlings-specific models correctly."

Asked if helmet impact sensors that attach to the inside or outside of a helmet shell with adhesive, even if weighing between less than an ounce and 3.5 ounces, would affect the integrity/structure of the Rawlings helmet in any way, Hunzeker's response left no wiggle room: "Any non-approved adhesives could potentially comprise the integrity of the paint, and thus the helmet. Weight is irrelevant."

Think that the way in which a football helmet is painted doesn't need to go through the NOCSAE certification process? Think again, said Hunzeker.  "You should see the process to get every single color helmet approved by NOCSAE.  Some collegiate schools have a unique color - think Notre Dame gold vs. Purdue gold - and every time we get a new custom color order, we go through NOCSAE for certification.

"I believe a number of decal companies are approved (3M comes to mind); what this protects against is a single consumer using some craft store adhesive to affix something on their helmet. Or preventing them from using regular paint to "update" their helmet.

"You should see what we see," he said.

Riddell: Erin Griffin, Senior Communications Manager for Riddell, provided the following statement on Riddell's reaction to the NOCSAE ruling: "Riddell's primary mission has always been, and continues to be, providing the best protective football headgear to the athlete. We distribute our helmets with on-product labels and users guides stating, "Do not modify, change or alter this helmet in any way." We recommend against any alterations that change the fit, form or function of our helmets. With respect to questions about whether modifications void Riddell's helmet warranty, we review warranty inquiries on a case-by-case basis."

Xenith: Due to what it said were summer vacation schedules, Xenith has thus far declined to comment on the new NOCSAE rule.