FAQs

The following is a list of frequently asked questions and answers concerning policies and procedures of the organization, adoption and enforcement of the standards, and issues relating to reconditioning.

 

Does certification to the NOCSAE standard mean that a helmet prevents concussions?
A helmet certified to a NOCSAE standard provides a substantial level of protection for serious head injuries, including concussions, but the NOCSAE helmet standard is not a concussion standard, and no helmet can prevent all concussions, even those certified to the NOCSAE standard. Currently there are no helmet standards in existence that are concussion specific. NOCSAE has been and is currently dedicating millions of dollars in concussion specific scientific research to try and identify criteria that could be used in a concussion specific helmet standard.

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Can the NOCSAE helmet test results be used to determine which helmet is the best helmet for protecting against concussions?
No. As with all helmet standards, the NOCSAE helmet standard uses a pass/fail threshold to determine whether or not a helmet meets the standard performance criteria. The NOCSAE pass/fail threshold is 1200 Severity Index units, or SI. A helmet must test below 1200 SI in all 16 designated and random impact locations, including two impacts at a helmet temperature of 115 degrees. Because of the very strict and demanding quality control and quality assurance requirements specified in the NOCSAE standard, helmets certified to the NOCSAE standard will test substantially below 1200 SI, typically in the 400 to 600 SI range. Because the SI units are not concussion specific, it is impossible to compare the SI scores of one helmet with another and determine which helmet provides better protection. Variables such as helmet fit, the condition and integrity of the padding and energy attenuation system inside the helmet, the current health and concussion history of the player wearing the helmet, and the athlete’s style of play with regard to the use of the head are far more related to the likelihood of concussion than are differences in SI values from one helmet to the next.

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Does the NOCSAE logo have to be “embossed” on equipment such as helmets and facemasks?
The NOCSAE standards require that the logos and warnings be “permanent” as that word is defined in document ND001-11m11a:

“Permanent (Label/Marking) – A label, or similar marking, that cannot be readily (1), removed without leaving a trace of its previous existence (2), erased or (3), smudged to the point that it is illegible. If it requires chemical or mechanical means such as the use of solvents, abrasives, grinding, etc., to remove a label or marking, then that label or marking is acceptable.”

Many helmets will have the logos embossed or stamped into the shell, but others may use a permanent label or printing to accomplish the same goal. As long as the label is permanent as defined above, the equipment labeling requirement is satisfied.

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What is NOCSAE?
NOCSAE (pronounced “noxey”) is the acronym for the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment, a nonprofit corporation formed in 1969 in response to a need for a performance test standard for football helmets. In 1973, the NOCSAE Football Helmet Standard was developed. The 1974 new helmet models were the first tested to this standard. The baseball batting helmet standard was published in 1981, and the 1983 helmet models were the first tested to this standard. The baseball standard has since been designated as the baseball/softball batting helmet standard. In 1986 a performance test standard was published for lacrosse helmets and face masks, and in 1987, a standard for football face masks was released. In addition to publishing standards for testing baseball, lacrosse and football helmets, NOCSAE continues to investigate other athletic equipment to determine the feasibility or necessity of establishing standards.

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How often does NOCSAE require that helmets be recertified?
There is nothing in the NOCSAE standard that requires any helmet to be recertifed on any regular basis. NOCSAE does reccomend that organizations adopt and follow a program of helmet inspection and reconditioning that meets their particular needs, based on age and size of players, severity of helmet usage, ages of helmets, among other factors. Some schools recondition and recertify their football helmets every year, some every two years.

A manufacturer may premise warranty coverage upon regular reconditioning and recertification, but that requirement is not mandated by the NOCSAE standards. A manufacturer is also free to limit the number of times its helmet may be reconditioned, or it may establish a useful life beyond which it will not allow reconditioning.

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Who belongs to NOCSAE?
NOCSAE consists of a board of directors which is comprised of representatives from the American College Health Association, American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, American College of Sports Medicine, American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, American Academy of Pediatrics, Athletic Equipment Managers Association, American Football Coaches Association, National Athletic Equipment Reconditioners Association, National Athletic Trainers Association, Sports & Fitness Industry Association, NCAA and the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).

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What are the NOCSAE helmet standards?
They are voluntary test standards that have been developed to reduce head injuries by establishing requirement of impact attenuation for football helmets/face masks, baseball/softball batting helmets, baseballs and softballs, and lacrosse helmets/face masks. These standards are adopted by various regulatory bodies for sports, including the NCAA and the National Federation of State High School Associations.

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How can I get a copy of a standard?
The current standards and any proposed revisions or modifications are available at our website.

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How are football helmets tested?
The NOCSAE test standard involves mounting a football helmet on a synthetic head model and dropping it a total of 16 times onto a firm rubber pad, including two each from a height of 60 inches onto six locations at ambient temperatures. Two 60-inch drops onto the side are also conducted immediately after exposure of the helmet to 120 degrees F for four hours. Shock measurements are taken to determine if the helmet meets an established Severity Index for concussion tolerance and thereby meets the NOCSAE Football Helmet standard test. An equivalent to the 60-inch drop test would occur if a player running at 17.9 feet per second (12.2 mph) ran into a flat surface which stopped his head in less than one inch. Most players run faster than this, i.e., the average speed of a player running 40 yards in 4.8. seconds is 25 feet per second, but very rarely would the head be stopped in such a short distance on the football field.

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Who tests Football Helmets for compliance with the NOCSAE Test Standard?
Manufacturers test their own helmets as they are produced. Licensed reconditioner’s test used helmets themselves to the original standard applicable when the helmet was new.

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How are lacrosse helmets and face masks tested?
Impact by the ball and stick, as well as collision with other players and turf are the hazards which must be guarded against in this sport. Consequently, the helmet is mounted on the appropriate size head model and is subjected to one drop test from 60 inches onto six specified locations plus a random location, at ambient temperature. The side of the helmet is also subjected to a single 60-inch drop immediately after being stored for four hours at 120 degrees F. The front, side, rear and two random locations are struck by the ball at 70 mph at ambient temperature, and the side is struck by the ball at 60 mph, after being stored for four hours at 120 degrees F. Shock measurements are taken by a triaxial accelerometer mounted at the center of gravity of the head model to determine if the helmet meets an established Severity Index tolerance. There is a recertification procedure which involves one drop from 48 inches onto two locations, including front and one rotated position, on a sufficient number of randomly chosen helmets, as well as 100 percent inspection of all helmets. This procedure forms the basis for parts replacement and rejection of helmets adequate to insure that all helmets leaving the plant will meet the Standard. Face masks are subjected to ball and stick penetration and deflection tests at 55 mph and at ambient temperature. Neither the ball, stick nor mask must touch the face. A stick impact test is also conducted at 40 mph after the helmet and face mask have been stored for four hours at 120 degrees F. Recertification of masks is dependent upon inspection of all masks. Masks must not be distorted more than 1/8 inch from a standard form and attaching straps and hardware must be free of distortion, defect or deterioration upon disassembly. Manufacturers certify and reconditioners recertify that helmets meet the respective performance test standards. NOCSAE does not certify, recertify, approve or disapprove helmets or any other athletic equipment.

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Are all football helmet sizes tested?
No. It would not be feasible to test all helmet sizes. The most critical sizes are tested in the three or four most common shell sizes used by most equipment manufacturers. These sizes have the least amount of standoff distance between head and shell, and if these shell sizes meet the NOCSAE standard, it is reasonable to assume the other helmet sizes in that particular shell would also pass.

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Would making the NOCSAE test more severe produce helmets which perform better in the field?
The SI value is a pass/fail threshold which is based on a number of scientifc studies, but the data do not support using the SI numbers as a ‘sliding scale’, such that lower numbers reduce or prevent more injuries than highher numbers.For example, there is no way to determine whether a reduction of 200 SI units would result in measurable protective improvement in a helmet for al types of petential injuries. For example, it is not accurate to say that a helmet with an overall SI average of 600 is measurably better than a helmet with an overall SI average of 500. Once the helmet performs below the 1200 SI threshold, it meets the standard.

Most new and recently reconditioned helmets test far below the threshold, generally averaging in the 600-800 SI range.

The ideal SI value for reducing the occurrence of one type of injury at low level hits may not be the same value for a higher impact force.

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How long will helmets stay in certified condition? What happens when a helmet no longer meets the standard?
Factors such as the type of helmet and the amount and intensity of usage will determine the condition of each helmet over a period of time. It should be noted the NOCSAE helmet standard is not a warranty, but simply a statement that a particular helmet model met the requirements of performance tests when it was manufactured or reconditioned. In recent years, the proportion of helmets recertified annually by NAERA members has ranged between 84-96 percent. Tests in these plants indicate that helmets which regularly undergo the reconditioning and recertification process can meet standard performance requirements for many seasons, depending on the model and usage. For football helmets, NOCSAE does recommend that the consumer adhere to a program of periodically having used helmets recertified. Because of the difference in the amount and intensity of usage on each helmet, the consumer should use discretion regarding the frequency with which certain helmets are to be recertified.

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How can I determine if a helmet meets the NOCSAE helmet test standard?
Those helmets which meet the NOCSAE standard must bear the seal, “Meets NOCSAE standards” and the logo for that type of helmet. The seal and logo are permanently branded or stamped on the outside rear portion of the helmet.

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Can a helmet which bears the NOCSAE seal be altered or repaired without legal ramifications?
A helmet should not be altered. Any change or modification in the configuration of the shell or liner materials from manufacturing specifications could substantially alter the performance of the helmet as a unit, causing a change in helmet performance, and possibly exposing the individual responsible to liability. Individual helmet models are certified in the condition and configuration in which they were manufactured, and any alteration, modification, or change from the manufacturing specifications could affect the model’s performance on the NOCSAE certification test. By following proper installation procedures and using replacement parts which meet or exceed original manufacturer specifications, skilled repair of a football helmet should not affect the integrity of the energy attenuation system. It is suggested that the manufacturer be consulted before any materials are applied to the helmet such as, but not limited to, paint, wax, thinners, solvents, vinyl tape designs, cleaning agents, etc.

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Does the NOCSAE standard require the use of specific brand name replacement parts when helmets are reconditioned?
No. The NOCSAE standard is not brand specific. Neither the test nor the performance standard call for any specific brands, materials, or designs. The standard speaks only to the performance of the helmet when new, or after reconditioning and recertification. The standard does not require the use of original equipment parts, but does require that “all components must function as originally certified” which requries OEM equivilance.

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Who enforces the NOCSAE standards?
NOCSAE does not possess a surveillance force to ensure compliance with the standards. The standards are voluntary and are available for adoption by any equipment manufacturer, user group or athletic regulatory body. However, if a firm affixes the NOCSAE seal to its helmets, it accepts the responsibility that all of those helmets meet the appropriate NOCSAE standards. Likewise, it is the responsibility of a reconditioner to recertify that all helmets to which the firm affixes its seal of recertification meet the NOCSAE standard applicable at the time the helmet was originally manufactured. If a helmet with a NOCSAE seal attached is found deficient, notice should be given to the NOCSAE Board of Directors or to the Executive Director.

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What penalty will be imposed if an athlete is not wearing certified protected equipment mandated by the rules?
For specific rules and requirements regarding helmets used in football, baseball/softball and lacrosse, the respective rules-making groups of the sponsoring organization would be contacted, i.e., the NCAA, the National Federation of State High School Associations, etc. There may be some circumstances where the use of non-certified equipment constitutes the use of illegal equipment and could result in player disqualification.

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Which reconditioners can recertify previously certified football helmets?
Only those helmets which met the NOCSAE test standards when manufactured may be recertified. Any NOCSAE licensed reconditioning firm which complies with the recertification standards may recertify helmets. Such recertified helmets are identified by an appropriate NOCSAE seal affixed by the reconditioner inside the helmet: “This helmet has been RECERTIFIED according to the procedures established to meet the NOCSAE STANDARD”.

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