With so much discussion surrounding concussion in American football in the media lately, choosing the best football helmet for you or your child can seem daunting.
In this guide, we’ll review 8 of the best adult and youth football helmets to hopefully set you on the right track.
Here are our top three picks:
Vengeance VTD II
Best football helmets for adults
1. Schutt Sports Adult Vengeance DCT Football Helmet
There are a few leading brands when it comes to football helmets, and Schutt Sports is probably the best in the business.
Their Vengeance DCT model uses dual-compression TPU padding to minimize impacts while maximizing helmet durability.
This material makes the helmet super comfortable, while the twist-release system allows you to remove the face guard quickly if needed.
As a medium-weight helmet this product is a good option for stronger players looking for the highest possible level of protection.
The only downside to this helmet is it doesn’t come with a chin strap or faceguard, which must be purchased separately.
2. Schutt Sports Vengeance VTD II Football Helmet
The Vengeance VTD II is the newer version of the first football helmet we reviewed. With this model Schutt has aimed to take into account the Virginia Tech protocols for helmet design to produce a safer product.
The helmet gets a 5-star rating from the university according to their guidelines, meaning it is one of the best football helmets for concussion prevention that you can buy right now.
A “Surefit” ribbed TPU air liner plus an additional layer at the foam at the front further contributes to trauma minimization while also making the helmet quite comfortable to wear. It even comes with a chin strap, saving you from having to buy one separately.
3. Rawlings Adult Speedflex Football Helmet
This is another helmet with Virginia Tech’s 5-star safety rating. In fact, it offers some of the best protection available on the market.
The Speedflex comes with “Patented Side Impact Protection” (PISP) to help reduce shocks associated with side-on hits.
Its polycarbonate material is light and reasonably flexible (as the name implies), meaning it can adapt to protect you from any type of impact.
Plus, this helmet comes with a face mask and chin strap.
There’s even a pump to inflate the inner air cushions – once you’ve pumped them up, the Speedflex feels incredibly comfortable to wear. Rawlings’ helmet is also available in a heap of different colorways, making it suitable for pretty much any adult/young adult player.
However, in return for the protection you get, expect to pay a pretty hefty price.
This is by no means a cheap helmet, but if you’re looking for the best-possible protection (and can afford the price), it’s definitely worth the investment.
Best youth football helmets
Young children have developing brains, which is why head protection is super important. Paying that little bit extra for a top of the range football helmet can be really worth the cost.
1. Xenith Youth Epic+ Football Helmet
This helmet from Xenith is an awesome option if you’re a parent looking for excellent overall protection.
It includes specialized shock absorbers which compress upon impact, helping to mitigate much of the trauma of the hits experienced. In addition, the compression lining helps to lock the head in place, ensuring that the helmet can do its job.
The last thing you want is your child’s head moving around inside the actual helmet in-game – this increases the amount of trauma experienced as your head impacts the inside of the helmet, and it’s why getting the correct size is so important.
What Xenith have done is ensure that the polycarbonate shell can move independently of the actual head, enabling the helmet to offer incredible protection from impacts at any angle.
It’s not just protection where the Epic+ excels though. You can customize the color of the helmet as well as the chin strap and face mask to match your team colors.
What’s more, it’s very comfortable – there are six included vents to help you keep cool, and the included (non-inflatable) padding is nice and soft.
This isn’t a cheap helmet, but it’s not exactly expensive either. Overall, it’s a fantastic deal considering the protection on offer.
2. Schutt Sports Youth FB Vengeance A3 Football Helmet
This model is Schutt Sports’ basic football helmet designed for younger players.
It’s extra-light compared to the older Vengeance models, reducing the chances of developing neck strain while playing.
Although it doesn’t use TPU, the non-inflatable liners are easy to use and are relatively comfortable.
For the price, this is a great helmet. It comes with a chin strap but not a face guard, and is available in a range of colors, allowing you to buy something that’ll fit in with your child’s team jersey.
Despite not being the most durable helmet on the market, it’s a nice beginner option for younger players due to its ease of use and decent price tag.
3. Schutt Sports Youth Vengeance A3+ Football Helmet
Remember how we were talking about paying extra for better protection?
This helmet and the one above it exemplify how this works.
Essentially Schutt makes the A3 Vengeance youth helmet (which we just talked about) and the A3 Vengeance plus youth helmet (what we’re discussing now).
For the extra cost, you get TPU padding for better comfort and greater durability.
You also get 1″ thick “Inter-Link” jaw pads, three different bumpers (protruding casing designed to reduce shock) and “SUREFIT” air liners throughout the helmet.
Although you get a heap of additional features which improve durability and protection, the helmet itself isn’t actually much more expensive than the regular version. That’s why we’ve given it a 5-star value rating.
4. Riddell Youth Speed Football Helmet
Another premium option is the Riddell Youth Speed helmet. In terms of features and build quality, it’s probably the best football helmets for kids on the market right now.
The high-impact ABS shell is filled with inflatable liners, allowing you to decide how much firmness you want in your padding.
For the extra cost, you also get an included face mask which is made of rust-resistant stainless steel, and a chin strap which features a soft cup for added comfort.
Also included are oversized air ventilation holes which do a decent job of cooling you down, especially when running.
What’s more, Riddell’s ABS helmets come with a 3-year warranty.
However, you’ll need to have the helmet reconditioned at least every two years by a NOCSAE Licensed Reconditioner and must only use OEM replacement parts.
5. Xenith Youth X2E+ Football Helmet
Xenith have produced a really nice mid-range option for junior football players, providing awesome comfort for a very reasonable price.
The company’s signature “FitBand” (made of silicon) is designed to conform to the user’s head size, providing a snug fit.
A combination of low and high-density foam is used in different areas to provide comfort while also reducing hit impact.
No inflatables are used in this helmet, meaning you’re good to go without having to go out and get a specialized pump.
To make up for the lack of control over padding density, the “3DX” jawguard is made to be repositionable, allowing you reasonable freedom in determining how snug you want the lower padding at the front of the helmet.
It’s also designed to be super light, although younger players will obviously find the X2E+ heavier than those in junior high.
Xenith’s “X2E+ shock absorber technology” will “adapt to the hit” for extra protection. Also, the shell is designed to move independently of the helmet itself to mitigate head trauma.
Overall, this is a really solid all-around helmet. It’s comfy, durable and offers good protection. The price is also pretty reasonable, and it comes with a face mask and chin strap.
Buying the right football helmet: a buyer’s guide
Before going on to the reviews we’ll outline some key issues you should be aware of when picking a football helmet. If you’re already a helmet expert, skip to the reviews.
Note: I’m not a medical professional and the advice in this article does not constitute medical advice. Please seek assistance from a licensed specialist in order to minimize your chances of concussion when playing football. Remember – no helmet can make you 100% safe. There’s always a chance of being concussed in football.
Replica football helmets
Avoid buying a replica helmet at all costs if you’re going to be using it to play football. These are essentially models which are made to look like the gear worn by NFL pros. We haven’t included any replica helmets in this guide.
Choosing a football helmet size
There are youth and adult (sometimes called varsity) football helmets. Each of these categories comes in sizes from extra small up to extra large.
Using a soft tape measure, find the circumference of the wearer’s head around its widest part. Measure from 1″ above the eyebrows around the back of the head.
Watch this video to get an understanding of how this process works:
Next, use the following size charts to determine your correct size:
Remember: each manufacturer has their own sizing chart. Be sure to refer to the company’s website to find the most accurate fit for your circumference measurement.
You’re looking for a snug fit without the helmet being uncomfortable. This is because having the helmet cushioning right up against your head will reduce impact reverberations, reducing your chances of injury. If the helmet is loose it’ll move around when hit, which will result in lower levels of protection.
The perfect helmet will have just the right amount of cushioning without feeling too heavy. The padding shouldn’t be too soft though, otherwise it won’t protect against impact.
State of the art football helmets now use thermoplastic urethane (TPU) as a cushioning material. Look for helmets with this stuff – it’s anti-bacterial, highly resistant to damage and doesn’t compress like cheaper foams do.
Some helmets also have an inflatable lining as well as or instead of TPU/foam. If you buy a helmet with this feature you’ll need to buy a separate pump to blow up the pads.
Youth football helmets are made with Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) plastic to protect your child’s head while also remaining lightweight.
On the other hand, adult football helmets are made with a tougher Polycarbonate material. This is because older players are stronger and so they need more protection against heavier hits. Using these helmets is illegal in some junior competitions because in head-to-head clashes they can hurt opposition players.
Check with your local association if you’re thinking of buying an adult helmet for a junior player.
Finding the right size football helmet will help to ensure you’re not wearing something that’s too heavy. However, some players may feel more comfortable in a lighter helmet.
If your helmet feels too heavy your maneuverability on the field will be compromised and you may suffer from neck strain. Ensure that your gear doesn’t feel like a burden when playing.
Face guards or masks are the metal grills that are used in conjunction with a football helmet. Unfortunately they’re often sold separately to the actual helmet, so you’ll need to find one that fits the product you go for.
Features to look out for
These days football helmets have a bunch of features that you might want, depending on your individual preference.
- Face visor – helps to shield your eyes from sunlight and rain. Can offer some protection in tackles too. Often sold separately to a helmet.
- Quick release systems – some helmets have a feature to instantly remove the face mask in case of an emergency.
- Inflatables – companies produce helmets with inflatable jaw pads and liners inside the helmet for added protection. The benefit of these components is they’re adjustable – you can pump them up to your desired level.
Cost – is it worth buying an expensive helmet?
With all the talk of concussions resulting in health issues that appear long after a football player has retired, it’s becoming clear that buying a good football helmet is an incredibly important investment. To be honest, it’s probably one of the most important pieces of equipment in the sport. Most body injuries such as broken bones can heal. Your brain, on the other hand, is more delicate.
Therefore, it’s honestly worth paying the extra price for the best possible football helmet. This is especially true if you play in a serious competition with big hits occurring on a regular basis.
That’s the end of our football helmet buyer’s guide! Hopefully you found the information you’re looking for. If you’re still unsure, please leave a comment and we’ll get right back to you!
I just want to end with a warning about concussions. No football helmet will make you or your child 100% safe from head injury. Remember there are risks involved in all sports, football in particular. Although buying the best possible football helmet can reduce the chances of injury somewhat, this risk remains no matter what headgear you have. Always be cautious, and be sure to consult a doctor before playing the game to develop an appropriate risk management strategy.
About the author
Tom is an accomplished writer, with years of experience producing buyer’s guides and tutorials for athletes online.
And it goes without saying – he’s sports-mad.