Over the last decade, concussions have eclipsed the sport of football, especially at the NFL level.
Fortunately, placing one of the most popular sports in the United States directly in the spotlight, created a trickle-down effect from the professional level, all the way down to Mini-Mites league play in local communities.
Wearing a football helmet in a sport that is lauded for its violent collisions, is at least as important as ‘how’ you wear a football helmet. For example, how tight should a football helmet be is often overlooked in the fitting process.
In this article, we will delve into the intricacies of how you put it on, tighten it, loosen it, and improve its comfort level.
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How Tight Should A Football Helmet Be?
When a football helmet is on and seated, it should be tight enough that there is no space between the padding and the player’s head. That includes the crown, forehead, temples, ears, and the back of the head. Also, the player should not be able to physically remove the helmet without undoing the chin strap.
There’s an obvious difference between being tight enough so that the entire circumference of your head is touching the padding and so tight that the blood vessels are bursting in your eyes and you’re suffering from migraines.
You want your helmet to sit firmly and cradle your skull and that’s the extent of it. The chin strap should be tight enough that you can feel a sense of downward pressure on the top of your head.
Since football is a sport where collisions come close to equaling the power of a full-bore raging bull charge, the chin strap is paramount for keeping your helmet seated.
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How To Make A Football Helmet Fit Tighter
Unlike helmets that you use for a motorcycle, construction helmets, bike helmets, or even hockey helmets, a football helmet simply has to fit when you put it on or it doesn’t fit at all.
The only adjustment point that you have is the chin strap and it is good for tightening the downward pressure from the top and upward pressure from the chin, holding the helmet on better.
The best way to determine if a football helmet is tight enough is to shake your head back and forth like you are vigorously signaling ‘no’. Once your chin straps are adjusted (there are upper and lower straps that you can use to tighten it while keeping the chin cup centered), shake your head back and forth.
The helmet should be seated so that the brow padding rests directly above your eyebrows. If that point of contact shifts either to the left or the right, you should grab a smaller helmet and repeat the process.
How To Loosen A Football Helmet
Loosening a football helmet is the exact opposite. You can loosen the chin strap to reduce the up and down pressure, especially if your jaw is sore from the upward pressure or you are losing sensation in the skin on the crown of your head and brows.
IMPORTANT: How to Know Your Helmet Size
If you’re getting headaches within fifteen minutes of putting on your helmet or pulling every hair out of your scalp and face when you pull it down, you need to opt for a larger size helmet.
You would be amazed at how much of a difference the chin strap makes, however, because a lot of the pressure in a football helmet is the up and down pressure caused by a chin strap that is far too tight.
How To Make A Football Helmet More Comfortable
Football helmets are like baseball gloves. When you first put one on, it’s stiff, unresponsive, and feels alien around your head or (in the case of a baseball glove) on your hand. If it’s already fitted properly, there is only one way to make it more comfortable.
You have to wear it. Sitting around watching TV, doing chores around the house, playing video games, or whatever it is you want to do around the house, wear your football helmet. Increased comfort means breaking it in, just like you would work a baseball glove, pounding your fist into the mitt, folding it, and pulling at the leather.
A well-fitted football helmet is not a comfortably-fitted football helmet, at least not at first. But wearing it when you are not playing football will break it in a whole lot quicker than showing up to practice and putting it on for the first time.
A football helmet should be tight enough that you have skin to pad contact all around your head. The padded brow of the helmet should rest directly above your eyebrows with a tight chin strap (but not excruciatingly so) and be secure.
A properly fitted and comfortable football helmet will do more than just protect your noggin from immediate injury, it will also protect you from worse injuries down the road; the kind that comes from a lifetime of repeated concussions.
The reality is, that concussions are the most common injury in the sport, from the bottom, all the way to the top. A concussion in and of itself is not life-threatening, however, a lifelong recurrence of concussions, especially if untreated, can lead to terrible, late-life consequences that underscore the value and purpose of a football helmet.