Who Owns It?

January 29, 2015

As parents become more concerned about concussions, some are refusing school-issued football helmets and purchasing personal helmets for their children instead. How should schools react? The Salina (Kan.) School District faced that question last year and responded by establishing a new policy.

"We've had a couple of parents buy helmets for their children that we didn't find out about until after the fact," says Ken Stonebraker, Athletic Director at Salina South High School, who helped write the guidelines. "With all the attention on concussions in football, we felt we needed to get out in front of this and establish rules so we have some control over the helmets our players wear."

The Salina policy requires that any personal football helmets have current NOCSAE certification, be approved for use by the coach or athletic director, and be fitted for the player by the coach. The parents must also purchase a maintenance kit for the helmet if it requires different hardware or accessories than those supplied by the school.

In addition, the helmet becomes the property of the football program for as long as the athlete is involved with the team, after which it will be returned to his family. "We don't want a helmet to sit in a kid's room for the offseason," Stonebraker says. "Since we'll have possession of them, we can store them properly and take care of recertification and reconditioning, if needed."

Although not required by the policy, parents are strongly encouraged to communicate with the coach before purchasing a helmet. "We're not going to turn down a helmet just because the parents haven't talked to us first," Stonebraker says. "But if they go out and buy one without any input from us, they run the risk of it being denied for not meeting our guidelines."
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