Safety Flashback: Football Helmets
Look how far safety gear has come
This football player from the 1920s hardly looks fired up for the gridiron. Could it be he realizes his soft leather helmet is better suited for keeping his noggin’ warm than protecting it?
Given what we now know about football and concussions — players get hurt even during practice — it's hard to believe it took so long for helmets to evolve from glorified caps-with-earflaps to the modern headgear players are required to wear today. For example, even though the first plastic football helmet was invented in 1939, the National Football League (NFL) didn’t require players to wear helmets of any type until 1943. It took another six years for the NFL to adopt plastic helmets.
The next few decades brought face masks, protective visors and air bladders inside helmets to soften blows. Perhaps the coolest helmet technology advance came in 2011: a chin strap with a light-emitting diode that changes color to reflect how hard a player was hit, allowing medical experts to identify concussions sooner.