KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- As part of a FOX 4 News investigation last fall, area schools and youth football leagues were asked to provide records on their equipment, with a focus on helmets. Our goal was to check to see if schools and youth programs were using helmets certified by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE).
If a helmet has the NOCSAE seal of approval, it's been tested and certified, according to the Overland Park based Executive Director of the organization Mike Oliver.
"That tells them (parents and coaches) that the helmet has been subjected to the most rigorous testing standards literally in the world."
During our review, the Central Midwest Conference, made up of youth players ages 6 to 14, provided records that showed its helmets were mostly certified, but were aging. Most were reconditioned and meet the NOCSAE standards, but were nearing the end of their safe usage, usually about 10 years.
"It's a struggle for us to have, to afford the same opportunities kids in the suburbs have in terms of football," said Alvin Gilmore, a coach with the Kansas City Huskies, one of the inner city teams in the league.
Gilmore and others point out families and teams have limited budgets, and even reconditioning helmets to proper standards isn't cheap.
When athletic equipment maker Riddell heard of the team's plights, the company offered to help. It donated 100 helmets to the Huskies and Kansas City Ravens.
We were there at a recent practice when a Riddell representative handed out the helmets and taugth the coaches and players how to properly fit the helmets.
"This will help a ton," said football mom Judi Williams. "We were able to bring the cost down, bring some kids that otherwise wouldn't be able to play into the probram and make it more affordable."
The kids seemed excited at the two team's first full set of new helmets in nearly a decade:
"I'm very happy, it feels very good," said one.
"Thank you," said many others.
In a statement Riddell said it "feels strongly that all athletes should have the opportunity to wear the best protective equipment," and it wished the two teams well in the upcoming season.
It starts on September 12th, and two of the league's teams will be sporting a new helmet look at kick-off!
And best of all, a safer look too.