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Recalling when the NFL made helmets mandatory


Seventy-one years ago Monday, the NFL made two key rule changes.

One change, according to the league’s Record and Fact Book, was to allow teams to freely substitute players. However, the rule was repealed in 1946 and wasn’t brought back until 1949.

The second key regulation, according to the Record and Fact Book and the New York Times, was to make helmets compulsory for all players.

This rule, of course, has stuck. The materials have changed over the years, from leather to plastic to polycarbonate. And it’s probably safe to assume that today’s helmets will continue to be tweaked with the goal of best protecting the participants in a very physical sport.

The helmet didn’t just appear in pro football in 1943; various models were already available at the time. However, now players had to sport some headgear — and thus a rule that will never, ever go away was put into place.