Non-Standard Facemasks Pose Injury Risk

As part of the NFL’s continuing effort to protect players from unnecessary risk, the use of non-standard/overbuilt facemasks will be prohibited for the 2014 season. The four players who wore them last year had medical exemptions and may apply again this year.

Recent research strongly suggests that non-standardized facemasks present particular safety risks and should not be used. Among other issues, those facemasks more frequently fail the certification tests conducted by NOCSAE, the organization that approves equipment. Helmets and facemasks must be certified by NOCSAE to be used in the NFL.

Research was conducted last year under the supervision of Dr. Kevin Guskiewicz of the University of North Carolina and Dr. Erik Swartz of the University of

New Hampshire. Dr. Swartz concluded that: “While it may seem logical that adding additional bars to a football facemask would make it more protective, our research suggests that overbuilt facemasks could actually increase the risk of injury to both the player wearing it as well as to other players on the field.”

A summary of the research outlines four primary concerns, including noting that that added weight negatively affects the structural integrity of the helmet and also fatigues the neck extensors, may be seen here.

Based on this research, and consistent with the recommendations of the Competition Committee, the Owners’ Health & Safety Committee, the Player Safety Advisory Panel, and the

HNS Subcommittee on Safety Equipment and Playing Rules, non-standard or overbuilt facemasks will not be permitted on the field for the 2014 season.

Take a look here to view several photos of standard and “overbuilt” facemasks to illustrate the distinctions between the two. The latter are currently characterized by more bars, smaller spaces between the bars, and a generally larger coverage area.

No new medical exemptions will be granted unless the player demonstrates both a genuine medical need for use of a non-standard mask and that no other alternative will provide similar safeguards.

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