Proper Helmet Fitting for Sports Safety

An estimated 1.5 million head injuries occur each year in the U.S., along with an estimated 1.6 sports-related head traumatic brain injuries. Are you protecting your head?

In honor of Brain Injury Awareness Month and National Athletic Training Month, we’re discussing an important piece of equipment for preventing head trauma: helmets. But not just wearing a helmet, wearing a helmet properly.

At Rebound, our physicians are very familiar with sports safety. Our sports medicine and physical therapy teams treat a range of sports-related injuries and focus on injury prevention for amateur, collegiate and professional level athletes.

Whether you’re a professional football player or an occasional cyclist, helmets can protect your head, potentially preventing brain or head injuries.

“While a helmet cannot completely rule out the possibility of injury, we recommend taking as many precautionary measures as you can. That starts with wearing a helmet and practicing safe techniques for whatever sport you’re participating in,” says athletic trainer Jeff Kraayeveld.

“Although helmets vary from sport to sport, the primary goal is to lessen impact to the head and provide protection and coverage,” says Jeff. “We encourage athletes to be aware of the protection level they need and the fit.”

Here are some quick tips for two sports where helmets should be commonplace.

Selecting the Proper Bicycle Helmet

Bicycle helmets may not make a fashion statement, but they’re incredibly important and often overlooked. The next time you ride, remember bicycle helmets are 85% effective in preventing serious brain injury!

  • Measure your head. This is a step you should take before buying any type of helmet. Sizing pads can offer help in making sure the helmet fits snuggly, and be sure that the helmet does not rock back and forth while in use.
  • Position the helmet so it sits level on your head. A good rule of thumb is that the helmet should sit one to two finger-widths above your eyebrow.
  • Buckle up! The left buckle should be center under your chin. The side chinstrap should be tightened snuggly, and you should only be able to fit one or two fingers underneath it.
  • Side straps should form a V under and in front of your ears.
  • Test it out! You helmet shouldn’t rock back and forth, whether side-to-side or front to back.

Selecting the Proper Football Helmet

A football helmet fitting properly is crucial to football, as it tends to be a high-impact sport.

  • Measure your head from the middle of your forehead.
  • Place your thumbs over the bottom of the face pads, with your fingers inside the helmet. Do they touch your temples when pulling the helmet completely down?
  • As with a bicycle helmet, a football helmet should reach around the middle of your forehead. When the helmet is on, it should fit snuggly, not moving.
  • The chinstrap is an important element- it should hold the helmet in place. The helmet should never be able to slide back and forth- if it does, consider purchasing one that secures the helmet or adjust the existing strap accordingly (it should be centered on your chin).
  • Face pads should fit firmly against your face, without inhibiting your vision.

If you are being fitted for a helmet, don’t hesitate to be vocal with your coach or athletic trainer. Ensuring a proper fit could prevent injury. Be smart, and protect your head!

Check out these resources for more information on helmet use in sports and recreational activities.

For more orthopedic, neurosurgery and athletic training resources, visit our Patient Resources & Research Page. You can also request an appointment here or call 1-800-REBOUND.

Stop Sports Injuries

USA Football – Helmet Safety Starts with a Proper Fit

Easy Steps to Properly Fit a Bicycle Helmet

Brain Trauma Foundation – Traumatic Brain Injury Statistics

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons – Winter Sports Safety and Helmet Use

Motorcycle Safety Foundation – What You Should Know About Motorcycle Helmets

National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment