By Will Heckman-Mark, USA Football
As football winds down, teams should be taking steps to ensure the safety of their players going into next season.
One way to improve player safety is to make sure they are getting the most out of their equipment, and the most important piece of equipment is the helmet.
According to the National Athletic Equipment Reconditioners Association (NAERA), helmets should be reconditioned at least every two years for 10 years, the life of the helmet. A helmet should be discarded if it has sustained significant damage such as hairline cracks or defective interior components.
The National Operating Committee for Sports Equipment (NOCSE) sets performance standards that all helmets must meet before being shipped from the reconditioning facility back to leagues.
It takes approximately one month for an individual helmet to be reconditioned and returned. It is a longer process for large orders, such as teams or whole leagues, so it is important to be on top of equipment collection and immediately submitting helmets for reconditioning
In the reconditioning process, helmets are essentially deconstructed, and each individual piece is inspected for cracks, deterioration and other damage with each damaged part being replaced. Helmets are buffed, polished and sanded to create a smooth exterior surface.
They are then washed in hot pressurized water to remove all the dirt and sweat from the previous season and to make sure the helmet is sanitary going into next season. Reconditioning facilities store helmets in a climate-controlled room before face masks and interior pads are reinstalled, helmets are repainted and all decals are placed back on the helmets.
The video below details Riddell's 20-step process for reconditioning with several rounds of safety tests along the way to ensure that each helmet is meeting the NOCSE's performance standards.
Reconditioning typically costs $30-$40 per helmet, a savings of $150-$350 when compared to the cost of a new helmet. Saving money is just one of the many benefits of proper reconditioning.
"Proper maintenance prolongs the effective life of the equipment, advances player protection and reduces athletic program costs in the long run," said George Maczuga, a regional sales manager for Riddell. "Annual reconditioning will not prevent injuries, but it does ensure that every athlete is issued clean, sanitized, inspected, repaired and recertified equipment."