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Football BC advisory on overbuilt facemasks/faceguards

Posted on 2015-06-03 11:54:59

Football BC is advising its member association, clubs and teams to prepare for the ban of use of ‘non-traditional/overbuilt facemasks’ by Football Canada.

Football Canada, in following the NFL decision in 2014 and the NCAA decision in 2015, is prepared to prohibit the use of these types of masks in Canada until the NOCSAE (National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment) provides their final statement regarding the use of overbuilt facemasks.

As part of their announcement in 2014, the NFL released a pictorial guide on permissible and non-permissible facemasks which can be found here.

In 2014, when the NFL moved to ban the overbuilt facemasks which are masks that feature more bars, smaller spaces between bars and a generally larger coverage area, their research conducted by Dr. Erik E. Swartz, PhD, ATC, FNATA of the University of New Hampshire concluded that “overbuilt facemasks should not be recommended for use during football” due to four primary concerns:

1. The added weight and more robust construction of the masks appear to negatively affect the structural integrity of the helmet during impact certification tests.

2. The added weight of the masks acts to shift the head’s center of gravity forward. This could have a tendency to fatigue the neck extensors and result in a head-down posture during contact and tackling. The added weight increases the head’s effective mass and may increase rotational acceleration following impact.

3. The additional, smaller spaces created in the mask increase the risk of another player’s finger getting incidentally caught between the wires, potentially causing a serious hand injury of the opponent as well as a neck injury of the wearer.

4. The additional material may negatively affect a player’s behavior during contact and tackling due to an added false sense of security.

In an email to Football BC, Executive Director and General Counsel of the NOCSAE, Michael Oliver, notes that, “overbuilt faceguards is a broad term that is not well defined. It has been used to describe aftermarket faceguards manufactured by companies not licensed by NOCSAE and therefore not tested to the NOCSAE.

“Several of the licensed helmet manufacturers also make facemasks that could be described as ‘overbuilt’ but which are certified by the manufactured under NOCSAE license and which have been properly tested. These masks would have the manufacturer’s name and the NOCSAE logo on the mask itself.

“Most of Dr. Swartz’ conclusions as to the potential negative effects of an overbuilt facemask would exist whether or not the mask has been properly certified as compliant with our standard. [The decision to use a certain facemask] should consider the content of Dr. Swartz’ article and not be based solely on whether the mask has been certified as compliant with a NOCSAE standard.”

Football BC has notified football equipment suppliers in British Columbia of the impending prohibition.