Like all consumer goods, baseball helmets have a shelf-life. Over time, the materials that helmets are made from can deteriorate, usually from wear and tear from constant use. On the other hand, if you have a new helmet that never gets used, it may very well last forever or even longer.
So, sadly, we must accept the fact that our baseball helmets will eventually expire, but when exactly will that be?
Answering that question isn’t quite as simple as saying ‘X’ years, the correct answer is, ‘that depends’.
So let’s take a dive into the world of baseball helmets and try to find out more about their lifespan.
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Baseball Helmet Lifespan
A baseball helmet starts its life on a helmet manufacturing company’s production line. So, we can say that the manufacturer gives the helmet a life, the manufacturer is also responsible for determining how many years the helmet is good for.
As part of the helmet manufacturing process, the manufacturer must follow the requirements set out in the NOCSAE standards (ND022, ND024, ND029) to ensure the helmet is as safe as it could possibly be.
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Next step in the baseball helmets life is that it will be inspected by an independent organization called SEI (Safety Equipment Institute) which will carry out a variety of tests to determine whether the helmet passes certification. SEI certifies random helmets from a batch, after that the manufacturer can certify the other helmets in that batch.
And that is just the beginning.
The baseball helmet is now certified by SEI or by the manufacturer and will be labeled to show that it ‘meets NOCSAE standard’.
It must also have a label to show whether the helmet can be re-certified or not. If the helmet cannot be re-certified, it must have a label showing exactly when the current NOCSAE certification will expire. (See below)
If the helmet can be re-certified, it must have a label that specifies clearly how often the helmet must be reconditioned and re-certified. In addition, all helmets must be labeled with the date of manufacture.
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Are you confused yet?
So, let me see. Some helmets cannot be re-certified, so they will have a fixed lifespan as determined by the manufacturer, however this lifespan cannot exceed 5 years and must have a label prominently affixed to the exterior of the helmet saying, “shall not be re-certified”.
On the other hand, most baseball helmets can be re-certified and will need to be reconditioned, then re-certified every one or two years.
It’s interesting to note that NAERA (National Athletic Equipment Reconditioners Association) recommends that helmets be reconditioned each year. NOCSAE suggests that reconditioning every 1 or 2 seasons is fine. But, at the end of the day, it is the manufacturer who makes the call as to the frequency of reconditioning and re-certification.
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So, do baseball helmets expire? Yes, they do, but they don’t just become unusable one random day, you know when you purchase your helmet that it will only good for 5 years, or that it is good for 2 years after which is requires reconditioning and re-certification.
How Long Do Batting Helmets Last?
Ok, so baseball helmets do expire, but how long can they last? The helmet manufacturer and NOCSAE have no say in how long a batting helmet, or any other kind of baseball helmet, can continue to be used.
That honor goes to NAERA, the official helmet reconditioners. You will recall that NAERA are the ones who are responsible for the annual or bi-annual reconditioning and recertification of helmets. NAERA made a rule in 2012 that they would not recondition or recertify any helmet that was 10 years older than the manufactured date sticker inside the helmet.
That seems fair enough. Ten years mileage out of one helmet is pretty good value, as well as a good call safety-wise. After ten years, your head is likely crying out for a new helmet that will fit your head properly anyway.
Getting a Baseball Helmet Re-certified
As mentioned, most batting helmets are able to be reconditioned and re-certified. This means that a helmet that is due for reconditioning can be taken to a NAERA expert for reconditioning. After which, it will be re-certified and can be worn safely again until its next reconditioning date.
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Manufacturers specify the frequency of re-certification, however, if that frequency is not shown on a label in the helmet, then the re-certification frequency will be the same as the manufacturer’s warranty period.
The freshly re-certified helmet will now have a new label showing the name of the re-certifying company along with the date of re-certification. Usually, the re-certifying company will follow the frequency of re-certification as recommended by the manufacturer, however, sometimes they may re-certify for a shorter period.
So, here’s what is important: baseball helmets do expire eventually. This is something that you should check when you initially purchase your helmet. Can the helmet be reconditioned? Does the helmet have a fixed useful life?
You could get as much as 10 years out of a baseball helmet, but you also need to take good care of your helmet if you hope it will last as long as possible.
When your batting helmet finally reaches its end of life, you can give it a new lease of life by repurposing it as a bedside lamp or wall trophy.