Having their head in the game

Published 9:51 pm Thursday, January 28, 2016

Helmets continue to be an evolving piece of equipment in the game of football as the focus continues on concussion prevention and making “America’s Game” a safer sport.

As it upgraded its helmets in the offseason, Windsor High School recently found itself in lockstep with a certain future hall of fame quarterback who will be playing in Super Bowl 50 next month.

One of the new Riddell Speedflex helmets Windsor High School football players will be wearing. (Submitted Photo)

One of the new Riddell Speedflex helmets Windsor High School football players will be wearing. (Submitted Photo)

“There’s something to be said for looking at a student and saying, ‘You’re wearing the same helmet that Peyton Manning’s wearing,’” Windsor principal Daniel Soderholm said.

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Like Manning, Windsor is transitioning to the Riddell Speedflex helmet. The school purchased 16 of them, and they arrived in early January.

The chief motivation to upgrade the Dukes’ headgear is safety.

“I do think that as stewards of these young people, we want to provide the safest environment we can, so if we have this opportunity, we take it,” Soderholm said of buying top-rated helmets.

Virginia Tech has developed a five-star rating system that illustrates how some adult football helmets provide a greater reduction in concussion risk than others.

Included in the Virginia Tech Helmet Ratings are 26 different adult football helmets that have had the STAR evaluation system applied to them. STAR stands for the Summation of Tests for the Analysis of Risk.

How a helmet fares in the evaluation system is expressed, in part, by a star system of another kind. A helmet that is among the best available is given five stars, a helmet that is very good is given four, one that is good is given three, one that is adequate is given two, one that is marginal is given one and those that are not recommended are given zero stars.

“We are trying to go with the most current science that we can, and right now, Virginia Tech is leading, really, the world regarding the helmet safety,” Soderholm said. “We’re trusting that research by those who are doctors and those who are engineers.”

The last time Windsor ordered helmets, it went for the Riddell Revolution Speed helmet, a five-star model that Nansemond-Suffolk Academy’s and Lakeland High School’s football teams have used, as well.

In the course of Windsor’s annual purchase of helmets, it secured the Speedflex helmets, which have a higher STAR value number associated with them than the Revolution Speed.

“We felt like that was the next step in the helmet safety,” Soderholm said. “We have an established relationship with Riddell.”

He noted that a little over half of his school’s helmet supply is composed of either a Speedflex or Revolution Speed.

Each year, Windsor returns its helmets to the factory to be reconditioned and evaluated as to whether or not they need to be replaced.

Every helmet made has its own expiration date, and it is never any further than 10 years away.

Like Windsor, Suffolk’s high schools have all made an effort to protect their football players by giving them solid helmets.

King’s Fork High School coach Joe Jones noted that his program has 20 Schutt helmets and also 80 Xenith helmets, in either the X2E or X1 models, which are five-star and four-star rated, respectively.

Nansemond River High School coach David Coccoli said 15 four-star rated Schutt helmets were added to the Warriors’ collection in August 2015.

NSA director of boys’ athletics T.W. Johnson said the school will begin phasing the Riddell Speedflex helmets into the Saints’ supply during the 2016 season.

While appearance is certainly not the top priority, Soderholm indicated the Riddell Speed helmets pass that test.

“Our students do enjoy the Speed helmet,” he said. “It’s a great looking helmet, as well.”