Brains are important – everyone has one, and everyone needs to take care of it. That’s why a properly fitted helmet is essential wear for roller derby and other contact sports.
Getting a helmet
Visit your local stockist to see the options available, and to try some on. It’s important to get a correctly sized helmet – too loose and it’ll just pop right off, too tight and you’ll probably end up with a headache.
If you can’t visit a stockist, you can measure your own head at home if you’re ordering a helmet online. Be sure to follow the manufacturer instructions carefully if you’re doing this, and maybe get a friend to help you.
Fitting your helmet
When you put your helmet on, you should have it sit just above your eyebrows. When you look up without moving your head, you should see the brim of the helmet. It should sit level and straight, and cover the sides of your head and your temples, and the base of your skull at the back.
Once it’s sat on your head properly, move your head around. Even when it’s not fastened, the helmet shouldn’t move. It should feel secure against your head without being tight. If it moves or slips, it is too big.
If your helmet has “Y” straps on the sides, adjust the fastener so the “Y” meets just below the ear. Not all helmets can be adjusted this way, notably “hockey” style helmets. Follow your helmet’s fitting guide.
Fasten the chin strap, and adjust it so the strap sits comfortably under the chin. It should be snug, but not tight. You should be able to get a finger or two between your chin and the strap, and feel the helmet being pulled down if you open your mouth wide. If you can pull the strap up over your chin, it’s too loose – you shouldn’t be able to take the helmet off with the chin strap fastened. If you can’t comfortably breath, talk, or open your mouth, then it’s too tight.
Take a look at the following photographs that show a correctly fitted helmet
Thank you to Filthy Halfblood from Big Bucks High Rollers for modeling.
Every time you put your helmet on, quickly check the “Y” straps and chin straps are properly adjusted. Sometimes they can slip or become loose while in storage.
Caring for your helmet
Keep your helmet safe and looked after while you’re not wearing it. Avoid accidental knocks and drops to prolong the life of your helmet, and ensure it’ll do its job when you need it to.
Don’t store it anywhere damp or humid, or anywhere that gets too cold or two hot. Most helmets let you remove the inserts and throw them in the wash with the rest of your kit, to keep bacteria and smells in check – but follow your manufacturer instructions carefully. Ensure you reattach the inserts properly when they’ve fully dried.
When to replace your helmet
You should always follow the manufacturer guidelines for when to replace your helmet. A damaged helmet won’t protect you as well as you think it should.
If you have had a fall and received an impact to your head, you should replace your helmet. Almost all helmets are rated for a single heavy impact, or for a few minor impacts. If in doubt, replace your helmet.
If you notice a crack, or the inner material of the helmet is damaged, you should replace the helmet.
Most helmets should be replaced every year or two even if you don’t receive a head impact. The materials in the helmet break down naturally over time. Make a note of when you purchased your helmet, and follow your manufacturer’s instructions on when to replace the helmet due to age.
Helmets are one of the cheaper bits of safety equipment to replace, but protect the most important thing you have.
If you are in doubt, replace your helmet.
Be a team player
If you notice someone isn’t wearing their helmet correctly, politely let them know. Take a moment to see if they need help fitting it properly.
Be concussion aware
Head injuries are serious business. Ensure you know the symptoms to look out for in team mates and in yourself.
The WFTDA have resources on concussion management, assessment, and advice. It also holds guidelines and policies relevant to roller derby.
The BMJ have a handy pocket guide for identifying concussion, which is ideal for your kit bag.
England Rugby have short e-learning modules on concussion. Ideal for understanding the basics and getting to know how to spot signs of concussion.
If in doubt…
If you need help getting a helmet, visit a local stockist and talk to someone. You should get help in selecting and fitting your helmet.
If you need help to check your existing helmet, ask your team mates or your coaches to show you how to adjust it properly.
If you’ve taken a heavy blow to the head in the past, even just once, it’s probably best to replace your helmet.
If, during a game or training, you take a knock to the head then it’s okay to sit out for a while and assess how you are. Not all concussion symptoms are obvious or immediate. Let your coach or bench staff know you’ve taken a knock to the head.
If you’ve taken a knock to the head and you don’t feel right, see stars, feel dizzy, or identify with any symptoms of a concussion, then seek medical assistance. If medics are present, have them come to you and check you out. If they clear you, but you still don’t feel right, then get a second opinion at your nearest A&E department.