Equipment: Covid-19 and Reconditioning

October 29th, 2020

With the beginning of football season right around the corner for the 2020-2021 school year, there have been questions as to what football teams are doing in terms of helmet reconditioning and sanitization. Most schools in the area were able to recondition for the upcoming season before Covid-19 really put a halt on things. The question will now become after the end of the spring football season, what will schools do as far as reconditioning goes? There will be a small time frame at the end of the spring football season and summer workouts for the new season. Reconditioning is vital for the safety of players and peace of mind for a coach.

In college, I had the great opportunity of working for the ECU equipment staff for six years and interned for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a preseason while in graduate school. This is not a punch below the belt to any high school coach in the area, but there are many high school and middle school coaches who do not understand the importance of reconditioning or properly fitting a football helmet (that article will be coming soon).

So, what exactly is reconditioning anyway? According to the NAERA (National Athletic Equipment Reconditioners Association) and NOCSAE (National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment),

“Reconditioning includes the complete disassembly of all helmet parts, cleaning, sanitizing,

replacement of worn parts and shell inspection. Helmets also may be repainted and have the

faceguard, jaw pad and chin strap replaced. Once the helmet has finished the reconditioning process,

the shell may be the only original part of the helmet that remains. In a helmet older than five years

that has been regularly reconditioned, the only part of the helmet that is actually five years old is

probably the shell. Helmet shells cannot be replaced as part of the reconditioning process.”

Essentially everything gets taken apart, inspected, and repainted. Currently according to NOCSAE standard ND 001 6.1.1. “Helmets intended to be recertified shall have a recertification interval provided by the manufacturer. Certification life is limited to this time period. Helmets not recertified during the stated interval shall no longer be certified. Recertification interval required for warranty validation shall satisfy this requirement.”

So what does ND 001 6.1.1 mean for us coaches? For Football helmets, as of this writing, the requirements from all football helmet manufacturers for recertification is a minimum of every other year. If you acquired new helmets in 2018 these helmets will need recertification per this standard. Most schools if not all will not get helmets reconditioned after the spring season, which is a tough pill to swallow but here are my tips for making sure players stay safe and will help give you some peace of mind.

  1. Make sure from the first day you pass out helmets that there is a proper fit. Different manufacturer helmets fit different sized heads. E.g., a Riddell helmet may fit one person great to where a Schutt will not.
  2. During the season sanitize the inside of the helmets at least once a week. In college and the NFL, we had the luxury of having an ozone machine. Put in the shoulder pads and helmets and then turn the switch on. In 30 minutes, fresh and clean gear. Obviously, we do not have that luxury in high school, so my suggestion is to find a disinfectant that is not too harsh. Chlorine, ammonia, or anything of the sort will ruin the integrity of the pads inside the helmet. A spray disinfectant or a disinfectant wipe may be the best option.
  3. When the spring season is over, thoroughly inspect each helmet. The old saying goes, “the more scars on your helmet, the better you played.” This mindset has changed over the years. More scars on a helmet indicate the player is using their head more in the game. Instead, the saying should be “keep your stickers scuff free.” Check for cracks and stability in each helmet. I would take every inside pad out, inspect the shell of the helmet, disinfect and reassemble the helmet. Key points of emphasis are the creases around the earholes and the crown of the helmet.
  4. Do not collect and redistribute helmets to other players. Helmets form to the shape of players’ head over time. For example, when a player gets a haircut, the helmet doesn’t fit anymore. Let the same player wear the same helmet through the duration of the 2021 year.
  5. If your budget can afford it, rotate stock. I know everyone’s budgets this year is nonexistent, however, if you have extra helmets that you aren’t using during the spring season, you might want to look at giving those new helmets to players who take the most beating during the season. E.g. RB, OL, LB, and DL.
  6. Use common sense. I know this one shouldn’t have to be mentioned, but our game today is under attack. We must ensure that we do our part to advocate for our profession in a positive way. The old saying still rings true, “If that were your child, would you let them wear that helmet?”

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