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Best football helmet

Which football helmet is best?

Buying the best football helmet is a decision that can save your life. Football players are at headline-grabbing risk of concussion and its aftereffects, including permanent brain damage. However, an effective helmet can significantly reduce your risk of injury.

The best helmets are shock-absorbent and scientifically proven to give you superior protection. The Schutt F7 VTD Collegiate Varsity Football Helmet is excellent because it uses advanced technology to provide several layers of defense upon impact.

What to know before you buy a football helmet

What is a football helmet?

A football helmet has a thick plastic shell lined with padding, a plastic-coated metal face mask and a chin strap to ensure it stays on. It is a crucial piece of equipment, helping players avoid injuries during games and practice. While no football helmet is concussion-proof, getting a quality helmet can remarkably increase your chances of staying in the game.

Why a quality football helmet matters

While it can be tempting to strike a balance between cost and quality when shopping for sports gear, prioritizing the safety rating is crucial when shopping for a football helmet. Medical bills and the damage associated with traumatic brain injuries far exceed the price of any high-value helmet.

According to research published by the National Institutes of Health, next to aging, a history of brain injury is the most significant environmental risk factor for developing Alzheimer's disease. It also causes a general decline in cognitive abilities, thinning of the brain's cortex, and cognitive deficits that last a lifetime.

All helmets are certified on a pass-or-fail basis without great detail on their actual effectiveness. To illuminate their differences, in 2011, Virginia Tech researchers created a rating system and awards stars, making each helmet's concussion prevention capabilities its central aim. Each year, it releases its findings on new helmets, categorized by sport. Its top helmets are a gold standard, worth the spend.

Best football helmet fit

The Centers for Disease Control suggest using four steps when evaluating a helmet's fit:

  • Size: To measure the circumference of your head, rest a measuring tape above your forehead and wrap it around the apex of your occipital region. Then consult the manufacturer's sizing chart.
  • Ask: Determine if it sits directly on your head, not too forward or backward. Ask yourself if the padding is snug and secure without being too tight and if you can see in all directions.
  • Fit: Ensure that the helmet does not slip forward or backward.
  • Evaluate: Attach the chin strap and yawn. If the movement pulls the helmet down and it feels secure, you have the right fit.

What to look for in a quality football helmet


Your helmet must absorb the force of each impact to protect your head. Typically, that is addressed with foam pads made from thermoplastic urethane or vinyl nitrile. Vinyl nitrile foam can give you efficient protection but requires a break-in period, while TPU foam does an excellent job absorbing shock without requiring an adjustment period. Some helmets also have adjustable inflatable liners for an added layer of protection.


Ensure that your helmet is certified by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment before using it. The certification indicates that it meets the minimum safety requirements and is safe to use. Manufacturers typically highlight their helmet's certification by adding labels that state, "Meets NOCSAE Standard."

Five-star Virginia Tech rating

Virginia Tech's research team developed a five-star rating system for the helmets it tests and suggests you select from its four- and five-star varieties. While no one can guarantee your safety, helmets boasting a five-star rating perform the best in reducing your risk of a concussion.

How much you can expect to spend on a football helmet

Depending on the brand, materials and design, they range from $200-$1,000. Many high-quality helmets are between $250-$700.

Football helmet FAQ

How do you know when you should replace your old helmet? 

A. Take it to a NOCSAE-licensed inspector. They can help you determine if it's time to get a new one or recondition your old one and recertify it.

How should you clean your helmet? 

A. Wash it out by hand using mild detergent and warm water. Be careful not to soak any part of the helmet, and don't get the water too hot. 

What’s the best football helmet to buy?

Top football helmet

Schutt F7 VTD Collegiate Varsity Football Helmet

What you need to know: It gives you several layers of impact protection and has added cushioning for a secure, locked-in feel.

What you’ll love: This 3.3-pound helmet has a Virginia Tech five-star rating. It deploys Schutt's proprietary multi-directional exterior plates in high-impact areas, radiation diffusion lining and impact-absorbent TPU cushioning. It also has a helmet stabilization system and a multi-layer front pad for comfort and a snug fit.

What you should consider: Some reviewers said it might feel a little big when you first put it on.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top football helmet for the money

Schutt Sports Vengeance Pro LTD Varsity Football Helmet

What you need to know: This 2.5-pound helmet has a five-star Virginia tech rating and gives you several layers of protection to keep you safe.

What you’ll love: It has TPU cushioning throughout to absorb each impact across a wide variety of temperatures and inflatable airliners at the back and sides for a custom fit. It also has interlink jaw pads that are mechanically attached to prevent them from falling out.

What you should consider: Some reviewers said finding the perfect face mask for this helmet was difficult.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Schutt Sports Varsity AiR XP Pro VTD II Football Helmet

What you need to know: This classic helmet design is sleek yet affordable, without compromising your safety.

What you’ll love: It's cushioned with TPU foam to absorb more impact and has an air-filled liner for a custom, comfortable fit and feel. It also has interlink jaw pads, a chinstrap to secure the helmet and a five-star Virginia Tech rating.

What you should consider: A reviewer said their helmet had a sticker that left residue when they removed it.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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Ella Scott writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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