NOCSAE’s Mike Oliver & Helmet Add-ons

Dustin Fink Of The Concussion Blog reposted my blog on Guardian Cap from today, with his own thoughts and additions. Then Mike Oliver, Executive Director and General Counsel of NOCSAE, commented on our mutual blog on the liability issue.

From Mike Oliver in reference to Dustin’s and my blog post 

You have done an excellent job identifying and clarifying the issues associated with helmets and helmet add-on products.

As with most national and international equipment safety standards, the NOCSAE helmet standards are design neutral.That simply means that the standards define performance and function, and leave the decision as to how to achieve those ends to engineers and other experts most familiar with material design.

A typical football helmet involves very complicated interactions between the rigid exterior shell and the interior energy absorbing material, which relationship includes how much the shell flexes on impact, where and to what extent those flexing forces are transmitted to the padding underneath, and how the flexing of the shell itself acts as an energy absorbent component to the entire system.

Because even minor changes to any of those components can result in measurable performance changes (good or bad) in the system, NOCSAE standards mandate that such changes to a model require a separate and independent set of certification data when the manufacturer makes even minor changes in those components.

If a manufacturer had chosen to incorporate an external similar to the Guardian Cap into any of its models, it would have been required under our standards to develop and establish compliance with the standards for that new model, and would have been required to give that model a different name to distinguish it from others.

This is true even if the change or addition was an improvement to the helmet performance. That new testing data could encompass over 6000 separate impacts across 200 to 225 sample helmets, depending upon the total quantity of that helmet model being manufactured.

I did recently received a statement from Riddell indicating that “Each helmet and face mask model is certified by the manufacturer to meet NOCSAE performance standards. The manufacturer certification is void if the helmet or face mask is modified in any way. Riddell recommends against the use of any third party aftermarket accessories that alter the fit, form or function of the helmet or face mask as such modifications void the NOCSAE certification and render the helmet or face mask illegal for most organized play.

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