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What Are Football Helmets Made Of?

Football helmets are a type of protective gear which people mostly use in gridiron football. The making of such a helmet includes a face mask of one or more plastic-coated metal bars, a chinstrap, and a hard plastic shell with heavy cushioning. Each position uses a different face mask style to balance protection and visibility. Some players also add polycarbonate visors to their helmets to shield their eyes from glare and collisions. Except for non-tackle variants like flag football, helmets are necessary at all levels of organized football. Despite using protective and strong helmets, players can still sustain head injuries, including concussions.

Football helmets have seen significant alterations as the sport has become more modernized to accommodate technological advancements and to increase the game’s safety. Severe head traumas are widespread despite the reduced incidence of some injuries, and understanding the effects of these traumas is a current focus of research. In addition to the immediate concern about traumatic brain injuries like concussions, research has shown that athletes are more vulnerable to long-term issues like chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Football helmets pose a unique design difficulty since they must resist many impacts as opposed to bicycle helmets. However, experts strongly recommend discard bicycle helmets after a single collision. 

Click to read more on Best Cruiser Motorcycle Helmets in 2023.

What Materials Do Football Helmets Contain?

Football helmets must be able to endure many impacts. Therefore, each contact must cause the materials to reform. Padding materials must be low density to make the helmet pleasant and helpful without losing energy absorption. Most football helmets consist of polyurethane or nitrile foams because they are reasonably lightweight and straightforward to manufacture. They maintain the force peak under the load suggested for head health (1.5MPa) without deforming.

It is beneficial to go over the characteristics of these materials to comprehend why these polyurethane or nitrile foams are perfect for football helmets. Experts generally consider it to be viscoelastic foams. These materials have three essential deformation areas: linear elastic, plateau, and densification. A material’s reversible deformation in the linear elastic area is inversely correlated with its stiffness or Young’s modulus. 

The foam starts to collapse in the plateau zone, which is another kind of recoverable deformation. When a foreign object reaches the densification area, it alters its internal structure irreversibly and cannot return to its former state. The main purpose of football helmets was that the strain remained in the elastic or plateau zone due to frequent use. Foams must be precisely strained to absorb energy without permanently becoming denser.

Viscoelastic Materials

The elastic area of viscoelastic materials changes shape according to the strain rate, which is the rate of material deformation or, more practically, the speed of the impact. More substantial materials deform less when they are strained more quickly. The helmet’s protection level depends on how rapid the blow is, and it performs poorly for both fast and slow blows. Air pockets assist the helmets in functioning better in collisions with very high and low velocities while absorbing some energy. The volume and geometry of air chambers are dynamic due to venting mechanisms, which help to reduce the viscoelastic impact.

Top Six Components Of Modern Helmets

Following are some essential components of a modern helmet:

External Shell

Throughout the NFL’s history, the outer shell of helmets has seen a significant amount of alteration. Football helmets had soft leather exteriors in the 1920s, but they now have polycarbonate ones. In the NFL, the first molded polycarbonate helmet debuted in 1986. Modern helmets often feature 3.35 mm or thinner polycarbonate shells. The solid outer shell shields the head from local hits by delocalizing the force so that the other components can take up the load.

Because they are lightweight, strong, and display good impact strength even in freezing temperatures, polycarbonates are the perfect materials for outer shells. Because of their mechanical performance and ease of manufacture, polycarbonates are a class of thermoset polymers widely utilized in manufacturing. The team’s uniform and image have become heavily reliant on the aesthetic design of the outer shell.

Shock-Absorbing Elements

The effectiveness of a football helmet depends on its capacity to lessen the force of a hit to the head. A helmet lowers the peak force applied to the head by temporarily storing or diffusing impact energy.

Compression shocks and shock bonnets are the primary energy-absorbing components, and comfortable cushions are the secondary components. Within the helmet, these parts come in various sizes and construction materials. The design considers a player’s comfort and positioning to safeguard the most vulnerable portions of the head and critical impact zones.

Inner Padding

Football helmet foams degrade over time, but safety modeling frequently ignores this process. People can re-use the Helmets, especially by youth teams, placing players at risk because they are not as protected as expected. 

Learn more about Best Commuter Bike Helmets.


The visor or eye shield attached to the face mask to protect players from glare or eye injuries like pokes is a relatively recent addition to the football helmet. To cover a healing eye injury, Mark Mullaney of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings is thought to have been the first player to wear a protective visor in 1984. 

Nike, Oakley, Under Armor, and SHOC are top visor manufacturers. Although Mullaney and McMahon’s visors were tinted, most early visors were clear or smoked; today, a wide range of styles, including blue, gold, black, rainbow, silver, and amber, are available. Except for clear visors, high school and pee-wee leagues have a visor ban. This regulation was implemented so that trainers and coaches could quickly determine whether a player was conscious after suffering a severe injury by looking at their face and eyes.

For the same reason, the NCAA prohibited the use of tinted visors, and the NFL has now done the same. LaDainian Tomlinson and Chris Canty are two players who have used tinted visors with special approval for players with eye issues. The XFL permits players to don visors that are adorned and colored.


Shock detectors and helmet data loggers record information about player impacts, such as their force and direction. Over 100 Gs of force registered by the sensors indicates a potential concussion. Up to 2,000 potential concussion impacts will be dealt to some players each season. After that, doctors then examine these data.

Recently, several manufacturers have introduced helmets equipped with sensors that can provide notifications when a player may have sustained a catastrophic impact. The objective is to recognize concussions as soon as they occur so players can receive appropriate medical attention.

The usage of sensors in the NFL has been controversial. Although practically everyone concurs that the aims are admirable, there are worries about the data’s quality and the privacy of individual health records. Two undisclosed NFL clubs tested accelerometers during the 2013 season, but their use was discontinued following the trial. The league intends to bring back the sensors after resolving privacy and data quality concerns. But sensors have already been applied to raise the game’s level of security.

Facial Masks

Football facemasks today are multibar, with a minimum of two bars. The multibar facemasks are often made of metal, most frequently carbon steel, titanium, or stainless steel. Each facemask has a coating of Polyarmor G17, corrosion- and impact-resistant powder. A thermoplastic coating called Polyarmor is applied to a variety of surfaces. While some businesses replace their face masks with new ones each season, others have their equipment serviced.

How To Make The Right Football Helmet Choice

Football is a high-impact activity, so having a helmet that fits properly is essential.

  1. From the center of your forehead, take your head’s measurement. 
  2. Put your fingers inside the helmet and your thumbs over the face pads’ bottoms. When you fully lower the helmet, do they contact your temples?
  3. A football helmet should sit roughly in the middle of your forehead, just like a cycling helmet. When wearing the helmet, it should be snug and stationary.
  4. An essential component that should keep the helmet in place is the chinstrap. The helmet shouldn’t ever be able to move back and forth; if it can, think about buying one that secures it or tightens the current strap properly (it should be centered on your chin).

Face pads should snugly hug your face while not obstructing your eyesight. The helmet’s padding should slightly feel tight against the athlete’s head, leaving a little room for movement only to protect players as much as possible while playing. Do not be afraid to express your concerns to your coach or athletic trainer if you have a helmet fitted. Getting the right fit could stop injuries. Be wise and keep your head covered!

How To Prevent CTE

Due to the association between the game of football and CTE, football helmets have recently received attention (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). Constant brain trauma and repeated concussions are the root causes of this illness. Memory loss, mood swings, disorientation, and thinking difficulties are all possible CTE symptoms.

Speech slurs are another symptom of CTE. The condition’s later stages may exhibit symptoms resembling Parkinson’s disease. Football players can be protected from injuries resulting in CTE by wearing helmets that are well-made and fit tightly. No helmet, however, eliminates the disease.

Also Read: The Benefits of Investing in High-Quality Sports Equipment

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