19 Types of Helmets (All Kinds of Sports)

An American football player adjusting his gold helmet.

Competitive sports have plenty of complexities in them, so there are so many types of helmets made for each sport. While all these are generally made for safety, the type of protection they offer is scientifically tested features that provide extra protection and security for the wearer.

This article will learn the differences between different types of helmets. This looks at how a helmet actually protects the wearers and how important it is to wear one whenever you take on a sport that requires it.

The goal of this article, aside from educating the reader, is to encourage the proper and responsible helmets. Wearing a helmet nowadays is not a matter of preference anymore. The protection they offer has increased as time went by from the day they were invented for sports.

How Did We Get Sports Helmets?

Helmets were around before people considered wearing them during physical contact sports. These were primarily made to be worn by soldiers and made from the sturdiest materials they can find. They were a conglomerate of iron, bronze, and leather. As time progressed and new forms of manufacturing processes were developed, new materials were also produced.

This paved the way for creating ceremonial helmets, a type of novelty helmet, which used more valuable metals and ornaments.

As far as sports were concerned, wearing a helmet was out of the question even though there were many safety concerns and the players were well aware of it.

Football players, who are the ones who are most prone to head injuries, grew their hair long to protect their heads. On the other hand, baseball players did not take wearing helmets all that seriously until some critical and even career-ending injuries in the 1930s.

Two American football players in action on a grassy field.

Source: Freepik

For motorcycles, it was also around the start of the 1910s when people were introduced to motorcycle helmets. During World War 2 in 1941, it was reported in the UK that one of the leading causes of death on motorcycles was head-related injuries. After implementing mandatory use for crash helmets, there was a significant decline in motorcycle-related deaths by head trauma.

Bicycles adopted wearing helmets much earlier. They initially used pith in the 1880s as head protection. It eventually evolved into strips of leather with paddings for the head. But it was only in the 1970s that they patented the standard design for bicycles. But the evolution did not stop then. It was continuously developed until the more recent lightweight and ergonomic designs were introduced in 1984 by the American National Standards Institute.

Some of the more unique-looking helmets include equestrian helmets. Professional equestrians used bowler helmets as far back as 1849. These were made from felt and were round in shape. British soldiers and politicians wore these helmets whenever they rode their horses for safety and show. In 1986, the United States Pony Club asked for a more standard design from the American Society for Testing and Materials, and the final product was released in 1990.

This protective headgear has changed a lot since its initial design, and manufacturers are continuously finding innovation and technology that make helmets more secure, lightweight, and comfortable.

Helmet Standards

To ensure that all helmets are manufactured to the safety standards, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has put together a grading system. This is a helpful guide so that buyers will see if the helmet can provide the right amount of safety and comfort for its available helmet size. 

Another organization that regulates helmet manufacturing quality is the American Society for Testing and Materials. They put out guides on how to build products to function well according to their intended purposes.

How Do Helmets Secure Our Heads?

A rider wearing a white Quantic sports touring helmet for protection.

Source: Visordown

In a nutshell, pardon the pun, a helmet is a hard shell that disperses the energy of the impact. The inner padding, usually expanded polystyrene (EPS), increases the delay of the impact force from actually reaching your head. This allows a greater reduction of head injury.

Whenever something hits the helmet, the damage depends on two factors: how fast you stop moving and how much force is applied to the helmet. A helmet is a way to reduce the force taken from the impact. 

Of course, an open face helmet will not fully protect you, but it offers safety nonetheless compared to an unprotected head. 

During impact and when your head comes in contact with an object or a surface, they exert force toward your head which will follow the laws of physics. It will not stop unless otherwise stopped. 

This is where the utility of the helmet comes in. A full face helmet will absorb the impact first, and since it has an outer shell that will absorb the impact and disperse it so that anything that comes in contact with you is significantly reduced.

Another factor that reduces the kinetic energy of the force is the lining inside the helmet. This cushions your skull and keeps it from contact with the shell, further delaying the force and reduces the amount of force you receive.

Helmets take the initial impact of the object or surface and minimize it when it reaches you. As far as safety is concerned, anyone who is into active contact sports should have proper training and understanding to keep them safe. With the right amount of equipment, a person will be safer when armed with the proper knowledge.

19 Types of Sports Helmets

We will list down the many helmet type for sports according to the type of activity they are used in. It is important to use the right helmet for its intended purpose or sport to be comfortable and for safety reasons.

Scooter Helmets

Triple Eight Dual Certified Bike and Skateboard Helmet, Gun Matte, Large / X-Large
Click image for more info

As simple as a scooter may seem, since it is a sport that requires a person to ride on two wheels, a proper helmet is needed.

Most of the time, an open face helmet is used. This is a helmet with a one-piece outer shell so that even when the rider falls, the helmet will not shatter to pieces. It also has air holes that act as ventilation. It comes in different shapes and sizes depending on which audience it is designed for.

Generally, these are made from lightweight materials, which is the practical choice as using a scooter under regular circumstances does not entail a lot of speed. A good scooter helmet must follow the ASTM F1447, which adheres to the helmet’s lightweight construction and proper ventilation. 

BMX Helmets

BMX riders wearing black bike helmets, sitting atop their bikes.

Source: Vans BMX Pro Cup

BMX helmets need a little more sturdiness as the sport can get quite extreme when doing tricks and flips. This means they have a higher risk of head and face injury than regular street riding.

The thing that differentiates a BMX helmet from others is the better impact protection over a large area of the head. This is why there are also full-face configurations for these types of helmets. You may find some variations that appear to look like motorcycle helmets because of the sport’s greater risk.

They are also equipped with the proper chin bar and chin strap to add an extra layer of protection. They are still kept fairly lightweight and well ventilated. Some variations also offer adjustment bands to be worn by individuals of different ages.

Downhill Mountain Bike Helmets

A 100% Aircraft downhill mountain bike helmet from Dirt Mountain Bike.

Source: Dirt Mountain Bike

Downhill mountain biking has always been one of the more exciting sports of the cycling genre. But along with the thrill and adrenaline comes a significantly higher risk of injury, especially in the terrain that the sport is held.

A downhill mountain bike helmet is designed to be durable and withstand blows and impact any horizontal orientation. These are designed to have greeted impact resistance and better construction of chin bars. 

Even with these guidelines, these helmets are lightweight and have plenty of ventilation to support the rider. Some companies use multiple layers of cushioning from different materials to add impact resistance to full or open face helmets. Other configurations common in these helmets are their lens, light, visor, and camera mount compatibility.

Cycling Helmets

Different colors of bike helmets.

Source: Bicycling

When it comes to the world of cycling, weight reduction and aerodynamics play a significant role in choosing the equipment. This is why manufacturers have produced cycling helmets with both features.

The most important factor for a bicycle helmet are the air vents’ placement while still providing a good measure of head protection in case of a crash. One thing that they had to compromise on is that these are designed to take just one crash. They are to be replaced immediately if they have sustained such an unfortunate event.

Skateboard Helmets

Someone who does trick skateboarding is prone to different ways of falling due to the nature of the skateboard. This is why skateboard helmets are meant to secure the skateboarder from hazards from different directions. While skateboarding is a sport that may have fewer crashes but the crashes may be more violent when they happen.

Skateboard helmets are also meant to have quite a little more flex which makes them more durable and able to withstand impacts from different velocities at any given angle. You can still use skate helmets after a rather big crash, whereas it is recommended to replace a bike helmet after a crash.

These are usually simpler in design. They have chin straps to keep them from falling and add comfort to the user. 

Motorcycle Helmets

 

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Motocross sports include using an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) and dirt bikes. These can also be used in utility terrain vehicles because of the ruggedness of some courses. Wearing a motorcycle helmet prevents untoward injury to the head.

Racing on more flat courses like karting and motorcycling also utilizes this type of full face helmet.

Motorcycle riders need a strong motocross helmet because there are risks, including going over different environments, which makes for an unpredictable manner of falling in the event of a crash. 

This type of racing helmet is designed to perform well in areas of impact attenuation or shock absorption, resistance to any form of penetration from sharp or blunt objects, and the retention system effectiveness. These helmets must have a minimum peripheral vision of at least 105° from the midline.

Any rudimentary impact must not easily deform the helmet’s shell. The motorcycle helmet should have a chin strap buckle, must not easily slip under any regular load, and should be resistant to abrasion. The helmet must also endure a drop from a considerable height. This is why most motorcycle helmets have full-face protection.

If the motorcycle helmet employs a face shield, it should be able to withstand impact from a small object with a velocity of about 500kph. This is an essential feature for a dirt bike helmet.

Bull Riding Helmets

Kasey Hayes wearing a bull riding helmet while riding Shaft during the Professional Bull Riding Tour stop at the Denny Sanford Premier Center.

Source: The Daily Universe – BYU

As cool as it looks when a bull rider tames a bull with just a cowboy hat on, it doubles the stakes and risk of injury if they do not have any helmet when they try to ride the bull past the 8-second mark required to call it an official ride.

A bull riding helmet is designed specifically to protect the rider from the risk of injuries that a potentially 1000-lbs beast can cause. Its main goal is to reduce the impact and contact with the rider’s face.

This is why bull riding helmets have a grill made with rigid steel to protect the entire face. It also prevents any potential penetration from the bull’s horn. It also has great shape retention and dynamic strength to keep it from cracking on impact.

Equestrian Helmets

An equestrienne wearing a black Rambo Diamanté helmet from Horseware Ireland.

Source: Horseware Ireland

Horse helmets are one of the more fancy-looking types of helmets. These have a distinct look to them since they take inspiration from the foxhunt cap that fox hunters traditionally used. One of the more prominent features of these helmets is the brim. 

Aside from the easily distinguishable design, it offers plenty of security for the wearer against any type of temperature and is often waterproof. It also has good ventilation.

One of the most important factors for equestrian helmets is fit. These helmets should fit well and not move around or be too tight. It should be comfortable enough to allow you to move easily. Color and style are sometimes considered by the breed of the horse or the rider’s organization.

Pole Vaulting Helmets

Kelsey Harms wearing a pole vaulting helmet while practicing in Apple Valley.

Source: St. Paul Pioneer Press

While not necessarily implemented and can be done voluntarily, pole vaulters can use helmets. Pole value helmets are designed to protect the wearer in accidents like overshooting the mark, slipping off the pole and landing off the box area, or going too much to the side.

These are designed to be lightweight and durable to protect the wearer from head injuries, especially from falling from a particular height.

Mountaineering Helmets

A climbing helmet is mostly for mountaineers who need to scale relatively rocky and steep terrain. This will protect them from any injury resulting from falling debris and in the event of slipping down a slope. These can also be used for spelunking as it will protect them from stalactites and when exploring caves.

These are lightweight in their design and have good impact and shock absorption. These are usually well ventilated to release heat and reduce fatigue from the climber. Their chin straps have the abrasion resistance and easy adjustment.

Baseball Helmets

Nike Breakout 2.0 Baseball Helmet Red/Crimson/Stealth Size One Size
Click image for more info

Batting helmets are the most common types of helmets people look for. These are the ones that batters use to protect their head if there is a wild pitch. Baseballs can reach high speeds that can cause serious damage to the person hit.

There are three batting helmets: one-ear flap, double ear flap, and a batting helmet with a face mask. One-ear flaps are usually worn by more experienced batters and adults. Double earflap helmets are usually provided for youths and amateur sports. Batting helmets with face masks are usually provided for women or people who want extra protection for their faces. Other varieties have also surfaced over the last several years.

There are also helmets for catchers. These are designed to provide more safety for the wearer because they are in the direct path of the speeding baseball. The difference is it does not have much support for the back of the head but focuses all the protection on the face. It has a reinforced steel face mask and allows for a clear vision upfront and side-to-side.

These helmets are also recommended for softball.

Football Helmet

Two opposing American football players in action on a grassy field.

Source: Freepik

Football helmets are on a different level in terms of technologies incorporated in them. As football is a full-contact sport, players need all the protection they need. These helmets are designed not just to protect the player but also to help enhance their game.

Even with their lightweight build, they are equipped with strong protection against strong impacts. The face mask is made from steel for extra protection in case of a collision with fellow players. Even with a durable shell, the helmet’s inner linings have shock absorbers, further increasing the protection it offers the players.

Another important part of a football helmet is the jaw pad or chin cup and a chin strap. This keeps the helmet from moving around and provides safety as well.

Tests are being done to develop the technology of football helmets further. One of these is the distribution of the force it absorbs down to the torso. This helps keep youths safe when playing America’s favorite team sports.

In 2002, the Riddell company unveiled a football helmet design that was meant to reduce the likelihood of a concussion by 30 percent.  Other innovations include creating a Shock Bonnet, which replaced the foam padding. It utilized 18 hollow thermoplastic impact absorbers. In theory, these reduced the jarring of the head and would result in preventing brain injuries.

Hockey Helmets

A male hockey player wearing a black helmet and holding a hockey stick against a neon-gradient background.

Source: Freepik

When talking about adrenaline-pumping sports, hockey is one of the sports that tops the list. This team sport is known for its intense and passionate plays, which is why players need to have plenty of protection on their body.

A hockey helmet is designed to protect the player from the puck, sticks, the skates, boards, the other players, and the ice. This is why the helmet has a practical design that’s all geared toward protecting the player from these many factors that may cause accidents.

It usually has a visor or a face shield to protect the face. The helmet has a strong shell and inner linings for additional shock absorption. Finally, the chin bar helps secure the helmet in place no matter the impact it receives.

The pop-icon Jason from Friday the 13th’s hockey mask was originally designed to protect a goalie who fractured his jaw and nose but wanted to continue playing. 

Lacrosse Helmets

A green and yellow Cascade S men's lacrosse helmet from Cascade Lacrosse.

Source: Cascade Lacrosse

Lacrosse is one of the games in the US. It was begun by Native American Indians and was called stickball at the time. It has since evolved into professional sports enjoyed by many.

The helmet it employs is made from hard plastic. It has a set of metal bars to form a face mask and a chin strap to keep it from moving around as the player runs to and for the field.

It has air vents that help with ventilation and reduces the overall weight to keep the player from feeling uncomfortable and limber while playing.

White Water Rafting Helmets

A man wearing a white water rafting helmet in blue, braving the rapids.

Source: Men’s Journal

White water rafting helmets are meant to have an extra layer of protection against bump and hits. It has one of the best shock absorbing properties that helmets can provide, given the risk of the activity.

These have good coverage of the head from the top to back. They also provide ample view so that the wearer is aware of their surroundings and have an ergonomic lining that provides great fit and comfort.

One of the more important features of this type of helmet is the retention system. It has to have a firm clasp and durable strap so that it doesn’t easily come off when hit or when the wearer falls into the water. 

Rafting helmets are usually brightly colored to make it easy for rescuers to find them in white water easily.

Ski Helmets

A man and a woman wearing their ski helmets complete with protective gear, standing in the snow.

Source: The Telegraph

Ski helmets have gained popularity lately, even if there are no strict laws for skiers and snowboarders to wear them. These have concentrated protection against shocks, penetration, and impact on a specific area of the shell.

The shells are typically made from ABS, a high-impact plastic material. Its inner lining is usually made from EPS which offers plenty of protection and impact absorption. This usually compresses, which “softens” the landing in the event of a crash.

These are brightly colored and shaped like domes. They have air vents, even though it may seem like you need warmth on ski slopes. If you feel a bit cold, some models have plugs that can adjust the amount of air you want.

It is also usually made to be compatible with goggles. More high-tech helmets have built-in audio systems for radio and a camera mount.

Snowmobile Helmets

Three individuals wearing snowmobile helmets.

Source: The Adrenaline Buff

Although snowmobile helmets look like motorcycle helmets, they have some features that make them work well in cold environments.

Most of the time, these helmets have full-face protection and sometimes come in modular form. This means you can lift the chin bar, which is great for easy wearing and access to the wearer’s face. They are also compatible with goggles.

A snowmobile helmet will have a dual-pane shield, which helps reduce the fog build-up in cold environments. These have a thin layer of gas that keeps fog away from the glass and enhances visibility when using the helmet. With recent technology, there are now options for frameless panes, making the helmet look cleaner and more stylish.

Modern snowmobile helmets also have heaters for the glass and a breath guard. 

Cricket Helmets

An Ultimate 360 Cricket Helmet Senior from Gray-Nicolls.

Source: Gray-Nicolls

Cricket helmets were faced with plenty of opposition when they were introduced. Nevertheless, they have been steadily welcomed and were regarded as a vital part of playing the game competitively as safely. These are made from ABS plastic, carbon fiber, titanium, and other durable materials. The inner linings are made from high-density foam, which helps reduce the impact of getting hit by the cricket ball.

These helmets have a distinct metal frame mask. It also has a chin bar which helps secure the helmet in place.

Airsoft Helmets

An SRU tactical helmet set from WGC Shop.

Source: WGC Shop

Airsoft helmets resemble tactical helmets since the sport is, in fact, a tactical simulation. Aside from looking the part, it also offers plenty of protection to the wearer.

As a crucial element of the game, it has to provide plenty of protection to the player. Even if pellets are small, they can still pose a significant threat if a player has no protection or is not wearing proper equipment.

These are usually made from reinforced ABS plastic and shock-absorbing foam in the linings. It also has ample ventilation to keep the player cool throughout the adrenaline-pumping game. Additionally, it has a durable chin guard to keep the helmet in place all the time. 

Some helmets also have side rails where you can attach accessories or even party patches and name tags to customize it further.

FAQs

How do you choose a helmet?

Make a checklist of these important factors when buying a helmet: certification of authenticity, how well it fits, and the materials it uses. Familiarizing yourself with these three factors will ensure you will buy a genuine and tested helmet that can provide protection and safety for the sports you will use it for.

How long are dot helmets good for?

Some helmets have ratings that require them to be replaced when met with an accident.

Which is better between a modular and full face helmet?

Typically the fewer moving parts there are in protective equipment, the better security they can offer. But since there are many types of materials available nowadays and different manufacturing processes have been developed to meet safety standards, this all now boils down to preference. 

What can you do if you have trouble fitting the helmet?

This could be caused by improper fit. If the helmet is still under warranty, you can exchange it with a better-fitting helmet. You can also check if the helmet has an adjustable feature.

Can you still get a concussion with a helmet?

It is still possible. A helmet is a defense line, but it does not prevent it totally as accidents are of different nature and intensity. The best thing to do to prevent concussions is not to take risks that will endanger your life.

How do I know the size of the helmet to buy?

The best way to buy a helmet is to go to a store and try them on. Knowing your head size and shape will also help you find the right size helmet for you.

Conclusion

Different types of helmets for sports were developed with safety in mind. They do not take away the enjoyment and freedom of it but rather elevate the games to be safer and even more dynamic. Always buy authentic and official safety equipment so that you don’t compromise on the protection it will provide you.

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