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History of American Football Helmets

Head injuries are one of the biggest risks of playing football.

When players run at high speeds and collide into one another head-first, some injuries are inevitable.

But the head injuries suffered today are not nearly as gruesome as head injuries of decades past,

and a lot of that has to do with the improvements in what type of helmet football players wear.

One of the rarest and first leather football helmets Circa 1903.

Soft, very thin leather, very thin padding. Simple and very little protection.

It was created to protect from the dreaded "cauliflower ear".

(It didn't provide much protection).

"Bashed heads and paralyzing concussions continued in the game."

The legendary helmet could be folded up and put in a players pocket.


                                                                      Leather Helmets

Leather helmets were the first type of helmet used by football players.

They were the only means of head protection until after World War II.

Soft leather helmets were first used until the 1930s,

when hard leather, that better protected the head was introduced.

Helmet designs improved over the years by adding more padding and a strap

to the inside of the helmet to reduce the pressure of impact.

By the 1950s, leather helmets had been phased out of organized football

due to the risks of using such minimal equipment.

Image of the first types of head harness.


Early leather helmet from around 1910.



In the 1920's the helmets added more padding

and strap harnesss to reduce impact energy.


In the early 1930's the outer shell became harder

and more impact resistant.


Later in the 1930's a face mask was added.


Today - 2011, The Revolution Helmet


Evolution of the football helmet to the Revolution helmet


Addition of Graphics

In the 1940s, teams began placing colored graphics on the outside of leather helmets. The first team to do this was the Los Angeles Rams, which painted a blue and yellow rams horn on each side of the leather helmet. Graphics continued to be used but were still ignored more than a decade later by teams that included Detroit Lions, which stuck to their single-colored helmets. Today, however, all NFL teams feature their team's logo on the helmet, except the Cleveland Browns.


Plastic Helmets

Plastic helmets were introduced in the 1940s and 1950s to the National Football League. They became the standard form of headgear used throughout the NFL and are still used today, although the padding and engineering that go into the helmets have changed drastically and helped improve the comfort and safety of the helmets. In 1953 the first facemask was used by the Cleveland Browns -- a single-bar protective cover to prevent the jaw from being struck and damaged during a game. Present-day helmets are still made of plastic but are much more complex, with new models even containing electronic implements that monitor the impact sustained by the helmet and help monitor potential concussions and brain damage.

Radio Helmets

Radio helmets were first developed in 1956 by the Cleveland Browns, who were able to fit a small radio transmitter into the helmet of the quarterback and allow the coach to communicate through the receiver. This made it easier to coordinate plays, but the Browns' opponents discovered the radio transmitter and led to the radio helmet being banned three games later, according to "USA Today." But the radio helmet was re-introduced in 1994 and is still used today.