With concussion concerns consistently in the public eye, the National Athletic Equipment Reconditioners Association (NAERA) has announced it will no longer accept helmets for reconditioning or recertification that are more than 10 years old. The new policy will take effect September 1 for the 2012 football season - mainly because many schools already have paid for their helmets to be reconditioned for use this fall.
The 10-year limit will be determined by the manufacturer's date, as required by document 001 of the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE). For example, at the end of the 2011 football season, any helmet dated 2002 or older will not be reconditioned or recertified. The stiffening of foam and the degrading of a helmet's polycarbonate shell over time can leave a player more susceptible to concussions.
"There has been a growing concern that we make some sort of a policy to make coaches and parents do what we think is correct," Ed Fisher, NAERA's executive director, told The New York Times, which reports that football helmets more than 10 years old are worn by about 100,000 young players every fall. "As a current coach and former administrator, I would want my son, and anybody's son, to be in a helmet less than 10 years old. We need to get the older ones off the field."
The decision by NAERA, which is composed of 21 athletic equipment reconditioners and four helmet manufacturers, follows the January announcement by NOCSAE that it will pursue several new safety-related measures - including the development of a test standard that considers the complex forces that cause concussions. NOCSAE, a volunteer consortium of mostly doctors and sporting goods officials, also is pursuing a separate test standard for youth and high school helmets.
The price for a reconditioned helmet typically runs $30, while a new one can cost between $150 and $200. That shouldn't be an issue for high schools, according to one helmet reconditioner. "School budgets are being whacked, but schools haven't bought new helmets because they haven't had to," Bob Fawley, owner of Capitol Varsity Sports in Oxford, Ohio, told The Times. "Now they have to. I don't think it will hit that hard at the high school level. Youth football is where you see the numbers - there are a lot of older helmets there."