What material are NFL helmets made of?
The physical nature of the game of football is a big part of what makes it exciting, but it can also cause serious injury; thus, the need for protective headgear.
Seeing Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes unsteady on his feet after taking a hit to the head this NFL season highlights the importance of using helmets in football.
Head injuries can cause serious neurological problems, and helmets are one way to make sure players are as protected as possible. Hits to the head are so commonplace that the NFL has a concussion protocol to help keep the athletes safe from harm.
Football helmets have evolved both in terms of design and material to increase the level of safety of the game. The NFL continues to seek ways to improve them and safeguard players even more effectively.
Early football headgear was made of leather straps, padding, and ear flaps. The ones used today are a far cry from those first contraptions, and have been designed to protect the head and the brain from multiple hits.
There is a lot of technology that goes into making helmets. They have several components made of different materials.
The outer shell
This is the exterior part that is painted with the colors and logo of the team. It is also the part that bears the brunt of the impact. It is a thin but solid material that needs to be both strong and light. NFL helmets are made from molded polycarbonate, a very strong polymer made to absorb bigger hits and withstand extreme temperatures.
This material is durable enough to provide protection, yet light enough to allow for quick movement. This shell spreads out the force, so the shock is absorbed by other elements.
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Internal absorption elements
Inside the outer shell you will find lining and padding commonly made with polyurethane or nitrile foam which absorbs shock and improves comfort. These materials are designed to take in a lot of energy without deforming. Some helmets have air pockets, shock absorbers, and other new materials.
Modern face masks must have a minimum of two bars. The multi-bar masks are usually made of titanium in the NFL, because they are light but also expensive. All masks are coated with Polyarmor G17, a thermoplastic powder coating that resists impact, abrasion, and corrosion.
Visors are a more recent innovation in protective gear, introduced to protect the eyes. Only clear visors are allowed, so that it is easier to see if a player’s eyes or face is injured.