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A football helmet is a protective device used primarily in American football and Canadian football, the modern hard plastic version of which was created by Paul Brown. It consists of a hard plastic top with thick padding on the inside, a facemask made of one or more metal bars, and a chinstrap used to secure the helmet. Some players add polycarbonate visors to their helmets, which are used to protect eyes from glare and impacts. Helmets are a requirement at all levels of organized football, except for non-tackle variations such as flag football. Although they are protective, players can and do still suffer head injuries such as concussion. Each position has a different type of face mask to balance protection and visibility.

One of the first instances of football headgear dates to 1896 when Lafayette Collegemarker halfback George "Rose" Barclay, began to use straps and earpieces to protect his ears. Many sources give credit for creation of the helmet to James Naismith. Additionally, other sources credit the invention of the football helmet to U.S. Naval Academy Midshipman Joseph M. Reeves (later to become the "Father of Carrier Aviation"), who had a protective device for his head made out of mole skin to allow him to play in the 1893 Army-Navy game. Later helmets were made of padded leather, and resembled aviators' helmets or modern day scrum caps. In professional football, at least, they were also optional. Some National Football League players, notably Hall-of-Famermarker Bill Hewitt, played all or most of their careers helmetless.

By the mid 1940s, helmets were finally required in the NFL. They were still made of leather, but with improved manufacturing techniques had assumed their more familiar spherical shape. By the 1950s, the introduction of polymers brought the leather helmet era to an end. The face mask was also introduced around this time, reducing the number of broken noses and teeth, but also necessitating new rules prohibiting opposing players from grabbing the face mask. The NFL player who gave the NFL the inspiration to develop penalty for grabbing the face mask was former Los Angeles Rams/ Detroit Lions defensive back Dick "Night Train" Lane. Lane would frequently tackle opposing players by the face mask, before there was a rule in place. A face mask penalty results in a 15 yard penalty. The NFL rule was recently changed prior to the 2008 season, eliminating the 5 yard unintentional face mask penalty. The Los Angeles Rams were the first NFL team to put logos on their helmets, and as of 2009 the Cleveland Browns are the only NFL team not using any form of primary logo on its helmets.

Football team, turn of the 20th century
In 2002, American football equipment manufacturer Riddell released a new design of helmet called the Revolution. The newer design was released in response to a study on concussions. The design is becoming more popular in the NFL and NCAA, being used by notables such as Peyton Manning, Dwight Freeney, Casey Hampton, and Brady Quinn.

The helmet will sometimes be wrenched from a player's head in the jostling of a play and leave the player vulnerable to injury. Sports Illustrated for January 15, 2007, includes a couple of photos of Jeremy Shockey of the New Orleans Saints, continuing to push for extra yardage in a playoff game against the Philadelphia Eagles, despite having lost his helmet during the play.

In 2007, Schutt Sports announced the arrival of a next generation helmet, the Schutt ION 4D. This next generation design was in response to the demand for a safer football helmet. The design includes an integrated faceguard. This new faceguard design features shock absorbing "Energy Wedges" that reduce the force of impacts to the faceguard. College Teams wearing the helmet include Air Force Academy, Penn State, and Virginia. Many of the New York Giants wear the ION 4D design including Brandon Jacobs.

NFL rules state that all helmets with a headset in them must have a visible green dot on the back. A few times in 2006 the holder on the field goal attempt was told to pull up and throw or run at the last second because of a change the coaches saw on the field. This gave teams an "unfair advantage" in the eyes of the NFL. The new rules let each team know who is wearing a headset and who is hearing the plays being called.

Also, a new, more recent addition to the football helmet is a visor or eyeshield, traditionally used to protect players from eye injuries or glare. It is believed that the first player to use a protective visor in an NFL game was Mark Mullaney of the Minnesota Vikings in 1984 in order to protect a healing eye injury. Top manufacturers of visors are Nikemarker, Oakley, and Under Armour, with Leader being to first to come out with a visor/shield for former Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon. The visors started out as clear or smoked, but now come in colors ranging from blue, gold, All black, Rainbow, Silver, or Amber, though high-school and pee-wee leagues prohibit all but clear visors. This rule was made so in case a player suffered a head injury officials, trainers, and coaches could see into his eyes to see if he were conscious. The NCAA banned the use of tinted visors for the same reason. However, players with eye problems may still use clear visors.

One-bar facemasks

The one-bar facemask is a model of facemask for use with football helmets which was one of the earliest facemasks available. It has been illegal in the National Football League since 2004, but a grandfather clause allows players who wore the mask prior to 2004 to continue to do so for the remainder of their careers. Free agent punter Scott Player currently wears a 1-bar facemask and will be the last unless a new rule reissuing the 1-bar facemasks is issued and passed. Since Player is approaching 40 years old and did not play at all in the 2008 season it is unlikely that the 1-bar facemask will be seen in NFL play again. Player currently plays for the UFL's New York Sentinels—the 1-bar facemask is legal in that league.

Typically, by the mid-1980s only placekickers and punters wore the one-bar facemask, a notable exception being Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann.

While playing for the San Diego Chargers, Doug Flutie wore a one-bar facemask for just one game (October 31, 2004) in a 42–14 win against the Oakland Raiders.

The one-bar had two different variations. The standard one-bar was made from nylon or other hard plastic and was bolted to both side of the helmet just in front of the earholes. There was a "snub" version that did not extend as far out in front of the helmet as the standard.

See also


  1. Riddell: Product Detail
  2. Schutt ION-4D Who's in it?, football helmets, baseball, softball bats
  3. Keep On Tickin’ Posted 2006-08-25: The NCAA hopes its new rules shorten games this season.

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