FOX6 OYS Helmet Investigation: How to keep your child safe

FOX6 OYS Helmet Investigation: How to keep your child safe

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The physical dangers of football are nothing new, but there are steps to keep your child safe that are relevant in every level of the sport. We talked with over 50 coaches and executive directors from across the country to put together a step by step guide with the goal of educating parents on how to approach the game this game in the safest manner possible. We broke the guide into three ways to do this: education, inspection and proaction.

First, educate yourself. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention has a free online concussion course created specifically for youth sports. It's called "Heads Up." The course only takes about 30 minutes to complete. Then you're certified. This is the same course that is required by law for coaches in every sport.

Second, check your child's helmet before they start playing. Oftentimes this means going up to the school with your child and asking to see it. Now, there's four things you want to look for.

1. Does the helmet fit my child properly? A football helmet should feel snug with no spaces between the pads and the athlete's head. So that the helmet isn't slipping around when your child moves his head. Also, make sure the base of the skull is covered and that the helmet is about an inch above his eye brow.

2. When was the helmet made? A helmet should be no more than 10 years old from the time of manufacture. Look for this sticker inside the helmet stating the initial season the helmet was made. If it says 2005 or earlier, it's time for a new helmet.

3. Look for when the helmet was last reconditioned. Reconditioning ensures any parts that might have gone missing during the season are replaced and that any defects are found. You should see this sticker on the side of the helmet stating when it was last reconditioned. If the sticker says 2013, it's time for the helmet to be reconditioned. It's recommended that helmets are reconditioned every other year, but yearly conditioning will put your child in the safest position.

4. Check the helmet model. No football helmet is concussion-proof. But you can find a helmet that reduces the probability of a traumatic brain injury. Virginia Tech released an independent study rating helmets. Those study results are posted in every NFL lockeroom and are considered by many to be the standard for helmet safety. You can find Virginia Tech's study results on our website.

Third, be proactive. Stop by a practice and see what happens when a child executes a dangerous tackle. Do coaches correct them? Even if your child has the best possible helmet, improper tackling will put him in jeopardy.

Your child should be tackling with his head up. Many coaches like to tell kids to "watch what they are tackling." They should also be instructed to tackle with their back flat and by leading with the facemask not the crown of their head.

And don't forget to get to know your coach. Is this someone that has your child's best interest in mind? Does the coach promote safe play? Is he educated about the helmet rules?

Remember: you can prevent a brain injury in your child. Don't take the risk of assuming they are safe.