This glorious image was captured in 1912 during a testing operation to improve safety standards in American Football. It was testing like this that have paved the way for new technologies such as the Speedflex or ION 4D helmet ranges that we see today.
In American Football the only thing guarding against head injury is your helmet. The earliest images as you can see above looked less like a Riddell Speedflex and more like a paper mache scrum cap.
It’s not exactly where the helmet’s original roots come from although some believe it stretches back to 1896 when Lafayette running back George Barclay used strapping to protect his ears. Over time this soon became known as the head harness.
Others argue that first-ever American Football helmet came from a shoemaker in the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland. The helmet was created for Admiral Joseph Mason Reeves who had been suffering from head injuries as a result of too many kicks to the head. His navy doctor is alleged to have told Reeves he will risk death, or even worse instant insanity if he takes any further blows to the head.
As we moved into the 20th-century American football helmet design took another leap forward with the introduction of hardened leather. 1917 marked another leap forward for the sport as helmets were raised above the head in order to minimalise the impact from the top of the head.
American Football helmets became increasingly popular in the 1920s and from then on it was the norm to wear football helmets on the field. The helmets themselves largely consisted of leather and had some padding on the inside, but the padding was insufficient and provided little protection.
The 50’s lead the world to move towards polymers in order to design the sports helmets and by 1955 facemasks were also introduced to reduce injuries to the nose, teeth eyes. This was also the birthplace of new rules prohibiting opposing players from grabbing the face mask