Use Your Head to Protect Your Head
The HECC Sticker On Your Helmet Will Tell You If Your Helmet Is Past Its Prime
By Dr. Alan Ashare and Dr. Rosemarie Moser
In youth sports, safety is a top priority, so checking your equipment is an important first step before stepping on the ice. That all-familiar sticker on your equipment lets you know that your equipment has met the standards that the Hockey Equipment Certification Council has chosen as the safest currently available for ice hockey. It may not always be clear if your equipment is certified. First, the certification of a helmet has a life span of seven years from the time it was manufactured. (It is not the date that you purchased it.) Before purchasing, check the date. The HECC sticker will have the date the helmet will be decertified. Do not remove the HECC sticker. Removal of the HECC sticker automatically decertifies the helmet. To see if your helmet or facemask is certified, check the HECC website at HECC.net.
Dr. Ashare is the vice president of HECC and the co-chair of the USA Hockey Safety and Protective Equipment Committee. Dr. Moser is the director of the Sports Concussion Center of New Jersey, co-author of the U.S. CDC Pediatric Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Guidelines, and author of “Ahead of the Game: The Parents’ Guide to Youth Sports Concussion.”
What The Heck Is HECC? The Hockey Equipment Certification Council is a volunteer organization whose membership includes people with a variety of interests, but who all have a common goal of improving safety and performance in ice hockey. HECC finds the best standards that are already available and then has its selected certified testing laboratory perform tests to make sure that the equipment meets the selected standard.
Selecting A Better Helmet
When it comes to head protection on the ice, the researchers at Virginia Tech University want you to know that all helmets are not created equally. Since 2011, they have conducted extensive research on a variety of protective head gear, including hockey helmets, with the goal of creating an unbiased rating system that will allow consumers to make an informed decision when purchasing a helmet. This work is independent of any funding or influence from helmet manufacturers. Helmets are evaluated through a series of impact tests designed to replicate a broad range of head impacts that athletes are likely to experience. These rating identify the helmets that best decrease forces to the head, which may reduce your chances of sustaining a concussion. With that stated, it’s important to note that any player in any sport can sustain a head injury with even the very best head protection. Helmets are only one piece of the equation to minimizing concussion risk. According to Virginia Tech researchers, every helmet currently on the market meets minimum safety requirements specified by standards organizations. Ratings help to identify which helmets best reduce the force delivered to the head. More stars equate to better protection, with 5 stars representing the best helmets available. Virginia Tech recommends that athletes purchase only 4 and 5 star helmets. To learn more about the research being done at Virginia Tech and to see a complete list of helmet ratings, please go to VT.edu/helmet.