If you see an NFL helmet with a team name rather than the Riddell nametag on the front, there's a good chance it is a Rawlings helmet made by Jarden Team Sports.
The company recently returned to making football helmets, and that's a point Jarden Team Sports was making with its first exhibit at NPE, said Marc Schmidt, a mechanical design engineer for the company, in an interview at the April 1-5 show in Orlando.
“We just got back into football last year and this is a way of letting people know,” said Schmidt.
The St. Louis company is manufacturing helmets for everyone from kids to NFL players.
Since Riddell Sports has the contract as the official supplier of helmets to the NFL, the Rawlings name cannot appear on NFL helmets, Schmidt said. However, players can wear helmets with the logo of the team they play for, and some do just that.
With all the concern lately about the violence in the sport and the possibility of concussions, Schmidt said the company wanted to show exactly how much effort goes into protection.
At the Jarden booth, a Rawlings polycarbonate helmet on a test-dummy head was being smacked by an impact cannon. Another helmet was being turned and then tugged to its limits to test the fatigue of the helmet shell.
“Helmets can last more than 10 years, but they are usually reconditioned every year,” said Schmidt.
During a smack test, the test dummy sustains 500-1,000 hits. Sensors record how well the head is protected.
“The better the helmet, the less acceleration the head sees,” he said.
All of Jarden's tests are done on machinery specifically designed to determine how the material or product performs. Schmidt said Jarden designed all of the equipment on display to meet or exceed the various standards set by the industry.
Also at the booth, the company demonstrated a test in which a steel ball is dropped on a helmet to measure the effectiveness of higher-end helmets padded with visco-elastic polyurethane foam. Standard padding absorbed the impact, but the ball bounced back up, showing that the impact was not dissipated. In the Rawlings' version, the ball hit and stayed put.
“In the sport of football, a helmet has to be able to take several hundred impacts — it's not like a motorcycle helmet where you have to worry about one time,” said Schmidt.
Jarden also was using a constant-pressure machine to test the ability of an air-bag system to retain its one-half-inch thickness. The helmet also was equipped with two valves to inflate its inner liner for a better fit.
“We wanted to show people what goes into the design and manufacture of a helmet,” he added.
Rawlings, which has been around since 1887, is known as the official supplier of baseballs and helmets to Major League Baseball.