How Football Helmets Changed Over The Years



David Johnson, Writer

Football Helmets were not always the plastic and metal helmets you know today. They have come a long way and changed a whole lot.


The First Helmets

One of the first instances of football headgear dates to 1896 when a football halfback began to use straps and earpieces to protect his ears. Also, one Navy football player was advised by a doctor that one more kick to his head could result in death, so he went to a local shoemaker and asked him to make a leather helmet.

Later, helmets were made of padded leather and resembled aviators helmets. One innovation from the early 1900s period was hardened leather. Ear flaps were causing issues during this period as they covered the ears and made it difficult for players to hear. The 1920s were the first time that helmets were mainly used in football. These helmets were made of leather and had some padding on the inside, but they had little padding and provided insufficient protection. In addition, they lacked face masks. As a result, injuries were very common. Leather helmets were also very hot, making them very uncomfortable to wear.


Football Helmets Turning Point To Modern Day Helmets

By the 1950s, the introduction of plastic ended the leather helmets. The last leather helmet manufacturer ceased production of leather helmets in the mid-1960s. The NFL also recommended face masks for players in 1955, reducing the number of broken noses and teeth, but also adding new rules stopped players from grabbing the other teams face mask.

Football helmets adequately protected players from catastrophic brain injuries, but helmet manufacturers were motivated to design helmets that decrease the risk of concussions. Later on a former Harvard quarterback, accidentally discovered a new way to cushion football helmets. One night, he was looking for aspirin when he saw a bottle in his medicine cabinet. Then he pumped it with air and punched it, he realized that the bottle withstood the blows of different forces. He then came up with the idea to encase football helmets with a number of inflated pockets in order to cushion the blows a football player receives and reduce concussions.


How Football Helmets Are Still Changing


Football helmets are still being changed and improved to this day. Shock detectors have recently been added to the NFL to improve players health and allow doctors to analyze the force a players body was hit with.

Headsets were also more recently added so coaches can relay information to there quarterbacks about plays or changes in the other team’s defense. NFL rules state that all helmets equipped with headsets must have a visible green dot on the back. A few times in 2006, the holder on the field goal attempt was told to pull up and throw or run at the last second because of a change the coaches saw on the field. According to the NFL, this gave teams an “unfair advantage.” The new rules let each team know who is wearing a headset and hearing the plays being called.