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Musical Helmet Trend May Be Fashionable, but Is It Safe?


A sportswriter coined the phrase, “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” Apparently of equal merit to some in sports is the wisdom of actor Fernando Lamas who said, “It is better to look good than to feel good.” The question, however, is just how deep one should dive in honor of that last pearl.

As we pointed out in a previous post, athletics can be the cause of significant and debilitating brain injuries. That certainly has been proven true for football players – both amateur and pro. But as our item observed, blows to the head can occur in nearly every sport. And they don’t always have to cause a concussion to result in brain injury. Repeated hits, even minor ones, can do serious damage.

New Twist on the Helmet Debate

In recent years, a trend has begun to appear in college football. Some teams have taken to switching out player helmets over the course of a single season. Supporters of the practice say it’s a fashion statement. One athletic director says it’s about style and looking cool, which can boost recruiting and marketing. But he says if it puts players at risk it’s a practice worth questioning.

That reportedly is what National Collegiate Athletic Association officials are doing now at a meeting in Indiana. The concern is overfitting. No two heads are alike and helmets are customized to specific players. Padding or inflatable cushions might be added or pulled out. So, if the helmets are switched out multiple times in a season, what effect might that have on player safety?

One helmet safety researcher says he doesn’t think it matters much. He says current technology is such that changes in fit probably only result in a minor change in safety performance. Still, the National Football League and some colleges, including the University of Southern California, have policies that require players to wear one helmet per season as long as it is functional.

In addition to the helmet issue, NCAA officials are looking into whether changing shoes during a season poses a risk. Considering the hazards inherent in sports, some might be inclined to argue that the focus should remain on how you play the game.