Proper helmet fit critical for youth football safety

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by JANET ST. JAMES

WFAA

Posted on September 21, 2011 at 11:04 PM

KELLER - A year after 16-year-old Jarrod Snell suffered a series of concussions playing football, he's still experiencing side effects.

"I slept for 20 hours a day and I had a lot of symptoms," Snell said. "I lost some feeling down the right side of my face, [and] my senses were really kind of screwed up."

Initially, Jarrod's concussions were blamed on an unfortunate series of hits. It was doctors who wondered about his football helmet.

"[Coaches and trainers] would just kind of put it on your head and shake it around, and tell you if it was good or not," Snell said. "They didn't really measure or anything like that."

Steve Mangus, a Dallas Cowboys equipment assistant, said finding the right helmet is about more than just giving the equipment a good shake.

Protecting the noggins of multi-million-dollar players is a top priority for the Cowboys equipment team. A matter, in fact, of life and death.

They agreed to show News 8 how to fit a helmet properly.

"Look for the eyebrows," Mangus said. "Look that it is lined up with [the player's] ears. Feel the back of the helmet to make sure there is contact with the back of the head. I want the jaw pads to touch the skin."

Mangus also said many helmets need to be inflated to make sure the padding touches the top of the head, and depending on the shape of the skull, extra padding may also be necessary.

"When you [shake the facemask,] you want the skin to move," Mangus said."You want [the forehead skin] to go up and down."

Medical experts agree a well-fit helmet is the most-important protection a player has.

The UIL has specific regulations. Rules Keller ISD, where Jarrod goes to school, told News 8 they follow.

Jarrod insists in years of playing for school and rec leagues, his helmet never received special attention.

"I don't know if that would have made a difference for Jarrod, but it sure would have alleviated some doubt in my mind had I known he had been fitted properly in the beginning," said Jarrod's mother, Mary-Ann Snell.

At the very least, the Snell's hope Jarrod's lasting struggles with concussions will raise awareness and prompt other football families to protect their own MVP's brain.

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

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