The quarterback is looking for a receiver and suddenly realizes he doesn't have time to make a pass. He tucks the ball and begins to run. He gains several yards and as he disappears into a pile of players I hear the report of a big hit, pads popping -- that distinctive sound that coaches listen for and fans applaud. Then out of the pile-up flies a helmet. It bounces once and lands right at my feet. When the players untangle the quarterback emerges and moves toward me to pick up his helmet. He looks up at me and says, "You saw that hold against my team on the previous play but you didn't see that hit on me?" Fortunately he was not hurt but this incident points out two problems with our game today.
First, helmets come off too easily. In 2007 the National Federation of High School Sports (NFHS) enacted a rule requiring that chin straps be attached with four snaps. In 2008, the rule was clarified to require four separate attachment points. From where I stand, as a referee on Friday nights, these rules changes have had little effect on reducing the number of times helmets come off during impact. I saw it every week this past season. As a spectator, every game I have watched on television this season has featured a helmet coming off. YouTube has over one hundred video clips of this happening.
In the 2009 Alabama - Miss. St. game, Heisman Trophy candidate Mark Ingram's helmet came off and his face was bloodied by an opponent's facemask immediately afterwards.
Forty years ago, high school players complained that it was almost impossible to get the helmet on to begin with, and just as hard to get it off. In today's media crazed atmosphere and the increased presence of cameras at games, do the players want their helmets to come off easily? One of the nation's leading researchers in this field, Dr. Stefan Duma says, "My opinion is they come off because some players want them too, smile for camera etc. so they wear it loose." If Dr. Duma is correct, then no amount of research by the manufacturers and no amount of rules changes will improve the situation. The top three helmet manufacturers in the United States are Riddel, Schutt, and Adams (formerly Bike). Since the early seventies and a few high profile cases of head injury and concussions, much of the research has been focused on designing head gear that will reduce the chance of or prevent concussions. Many technological advances have been made. In 2002, Riddell introduced their "Revolution" helmet and in 2007, Schutt added the line of "Ion 4-D" products which they tout as "the most advanced helmet in the market". Adam's premier product is the "A-4".