Reconditioning Football Equipment
Reconditioning involves testing, cleaning, sanitizing, replacing and even resurfacing helmets, shoulder pads, blocking sleds & dummies, etc to restore them to a like-new condition whose safety is recertified by the NOCSAE. The growing industry of athletic equipment reconditioning is much more sophisticated than just cleaning worn and dirty uniforms. Companies in this industry completely repair and sanitize equipment for virtually any sport – from helmets and shoulder pads, to baseball gloves and catcher’s gear, to lacrosse helmets and sticks. The equipment is returned clean, safe and in like-new condition at a fraction of its replacement cost.
With helmets, parts that are no longer usable are removed and replaced with new factory authorized parts. Usable parts are cleaned, pads and straps replaced, and shells are repainted. This results in like-new appearance and functionality. In high quality pad reconditioning (hip, rib, thigh, etc.), all equipment is initially cleaned and sanitized. Manufacturer’s replacement parts are used where necessary and all items are repaired with double stitching.
Any coach, trainer or person involved in sports knows what a team’s equipment looks like at the end of the season. The equipment is broken, beaten, worn and battered. With the cost of new equipment and a limited budgets, it’s not economically sensible to always buy new equipment, and not safe to use old and broken equipment. From this dilemma, the concept of athletic equipment reconditioning was born. Awareness of the benefits of reconditioning, as well as the value-added services a quality reconditioner can provide, is an invaluable tool in helping today’s coaches meet the increasing responsibilities – and risks – of their jobs.
The reconditioning process for a helmet is very thorough. After each helmet is cleaned and sanitized, the face protectors are removed to ensure effective testing. Helmets are then tested according to the NOCSAE standards. Any padding or other components that are either worn or damaged are replaced with original manufacturers’ parts.
After the physical parts of the helmet are repaired or replaced, cosmetic reconditioning takes place. The helmets are buffed and painted with approved paints that are compatible with the helmet manufacturer’s plastics. Cheaper paints or non-approved paint can damage a helmet and diminish its ability to protect. These approved paints are the same paints used by the helmet’s original manufacturer. The final step in the process is reinstalling or replacing the cages, so that they also meet regulations. The optional installation of stripes and decals may also enhance the "eye appeal" of the football helmet.
In the case of a painted shell, you may want to recondition each year. Also, if you can design a unique color or mascot/logo, the reconditioner can probably install it on helmets for you. Make sure to have the reconditioner include touch up paint from the exact batch they mixed for your helmets. This will help you to later be able to get an exact match when touching up helmet gouges or scratches.
One custom option you can also specify is that all numbers and trim decals, such as sweat band covers and snubbers, be applied. Face mask selection and existing padding is also important. By taking the time before reconditioning and recording each player’s helmet make, face mask style, chinstrap, jaw pad and interior pad sizing, you can insure that no mistakes are made. The helmet will come back to you with the same sizers, chinstrap, and mask ready for the player to hit the field.
What is Done to Recondition Helmets
This is what happens during the reconditioning process of your football equipment.
- If not previously done, a number will be engraved on the shell in the area of the left jaw pad of each helmet.
- Each helmet is documented by model number, interior components and sizes, the style of the faceguard and chinstrap. If any part is missing, this is also documented.
- Interior parts are removed, inspected, cleaned and sanitized. Any parts found to be unsuitable for play are replaced.
- Faceguards are removed, inspected, then reinstalled. This step also includes installing new mounting hardware.
- New stainless steel t-nuts and snap hardware are installed.
- New warning labels are affixed to the interior and exterior of the helmet.
- New size and recertification labels are affixed to the helmet.
- The helmets are recertified according to NOCSAE standards for recertification. This also includes a contribution to NOCSAE.
- The helmet is buffed and polished.
- Any faceguard found to be unsuitable for play is replaced with the same style that originally came on the helmet, unless a different style is requested. Service Sports will provide you with an estimate of the number of faceguards needing to be replaced during the initial inspection of the equipment.
- Any chinstrap that needs to be replaced will be done with the same style that comes in on the helmet. If it doesn't need replacing, it will be cleaned, sanitized and reattached to the helmet.
- If painting is necessary, old paint is removed and the shell is inspected for cracks. If none are found, the helmet is prepped for a primer coat, then repainted. There is an additional charge for this process.
Recertification / Safety Certification and Testing
Recertification is the process by which football helmets are given the status of approval per manufacturer's guidelines and the adopted NOCSAE® Standard for helmets For a football helmet to be recertified, it must go through the reconditioning process by an Authorized Reconditioner.
In order to protect against serious head injuries, it is recommended that each helmet be reconditioned annually at the end of each season. Electronic testing equipment approved by the National Operating Committee for Standards in Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) is used to test the protective qualities of the equipment. The committee was formed in 1969 to make competitive sports as injury-free as possible by developing standards for protective equipment.
Testing for helmets is done utilizing the Electronic Head Model Test System developed by the Neurosurgery Biomechanics Lab of Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. The system involves a plastic human-like head form. A helmet is installed on the head form and properly fitted. The head form is then dropped 60 inches onto a hard rubber anvil. A shock meter inside the head form measures the impact. If the registered impact measures in the "concussion zone," the helmet parts fail the test. The parts are then either replaced and the helmet retested, or the helmet is rejected.
As part of the test, the helmet is dropped twice in succession. This second drop tests the resiliency of the pads. If the pads are compressed after the first drop and do not spring back to their original shape, the second drop may register in the "concussion zone" and cause the helmet to be rejected. This process is an electronic simulation of what a player experiences when he receives one "hit" after another.
New helmet manufacturers certify new helmets with the NOCSAE seal. Athletic equipment reconditioners are qualified to recertify helmets by testing helmets and then installing a dated NOCSAE recertification label on those helmets that pass the test. That means that the high NOCSAE standards of safety, protection and quality designed into the headgear by the manufacturer have not deteriorated.
How Often Should Helmets Be Reconditioned?
Most adult football helmets are required to be recertified at the end of the second and fourth season after the helmet was purchased in order to validate the helmet’s warranty. On most youth football helmets, it is recommended that each helmet be reconditioned at least every other year. For safety concerns, it is better that each helmet be reconditioned annually, at the end of each season.
It is also important to know that both Riddell and Schutt require that their helmets be reconditioned and recertified every other year on all varsity helmets. If the helmet is serviced by an approved reconditioner, the manufacturer will replace the shell if it cracks or is defective within the five-year window of the warranty period.
By checking your existing inventory, you can determine what needs to be reconditioned and what can be held back an additional year. This will allow you to stretch your equipment budget, but still meet manufacturers' requirements for safety and warranties.
How Much Does It Cost?
Reconditioning football helmets costs about $30 - $40, depending on what extra parts need to be replaced, versus a cost of about $120 for a new helmet. Similarly, reconditioning other types of football pads costs only a fraction of what a new pad will cost.
Cleaning, sanitizing, and repairing shoulder pads can extend their useful life and save you money at the same time. Reconditioning also includes replacing straps and T hooks. Each unit receives new elastic, laces and hardware. Any unit rejected will be returned in separate packaging labeled as such.
What is Done
Each unit is broken down, cleaned, sanitized, repaired as needed, then inspected before packing for return shipment back to schools in a ready to use condition. The parts that are no longer usable are removed and replaced with new parts Each unit receives new elastic, laces and hardware. Any unit rejected will be returned to the school in separate packaging and labeled as such.
Possible Replacement Parts
During the reconditioning inspection, Service Sports examines the following shoulder pad parts and, if deemed not fit for use, will restore each to like-new condition:
- Hardware (“T” hooks, slides, buckles)
- Rib Combo/Back Plates: Replacing Velcro or webbing with grommets
How Often Should Shoulder Pads Be Reconditioned?
Regularly check your existing inventory and determine what needs to be repaired.
- Make sure to check over the epaulets for cracks or warping. The epaulet is the part on the shoulder pad that is the primary hitting area toward the end of the shoulder pad.
- Next check over the arch and cantilever area of the shoulder pad. Many times the arch can become cracked and the cantilevers can come un-riveted or worn out. Please note if the pad is a flat-pad design that it will not have a cantilever in place so all you need to do is check over the arch area.
- Check over the existing padding in the shoulder pad. Is it torn or are the edges frayed? In an air management pad, it is important that there are no tears in the body of the pad or the pad will not work as designed. Check over the areas where the padding attaches to the body. Is the velcro torn or worn out? Look inside the neck area and in the channel area over the shoulders for any tears or signs of wear.
- Inspect the caps or area that sits over the humerus of the shoulder. Is the cap pad in good shape or is it in need of replacement or repair.?
- Check out the strings in the shoulder pad and also the belts/buckle system. If the belts or buckles are not in working order, the shoulder pad is not being worn properly and there is a chance for injury.
- Look over all extra attachments such as neck rolls, collars, back plates, and rib combos. It is a good idea to have these removed and re-attached with new hardware. Any rips or tears can be re-sewn and any velcro or zippers can be repaired or replaced.
- It is a good idea to make notes of everything you need done. If you have some pads that just need to be cleaned, sanitized, and new strings and straps put on them, you should pay considerably less than a pad that needs to be re-sewn, epaulet fixed, and new hardware for a neck roll. Take the time to determine your exact needs, record what needs to be done, and get all prices in writing.
Blocking Sleds and Tackling Dummies
Probably no other item of football equipment takes so much punishment with so little complaint. But even blocking sleds and tackling dummies need some attention every so often. Service Sports will inspect your blocking sleds and tackling dummies and repair or replace all unusable parts, pads, and connectors, returning them to you in a like-new, usable condition.