We all know what a helmet looks like and what it's supposed to be for. Unfortunately, those of of us without prior sports or skateboarding backgrounds (ahem) end up buying helmets based on color or price (like that sweet freebie you found in your brother's closet) and miss the mark on safety and function. A good helmet should fit properly, provide adequate protection, and be an appropriate color and material for the individual derby girl.
1) A good fit. Your helmet should be snug but not uncomfortable (a red dent around your head is a bad sign) and should hit you at above eyebrow level when placed on your head at a level angle (sitting straight on your head, not at a jaunty angle). The chin strap should also be snug, with no more than two fingers worth of slack. The length of the chin strap can be adjusted and the two little straps that come together to form the chin strap can be fiddled with where the two combine to make sure the helmet is sitting on your head properly. Adjusting these changes the angle of how the helmet sits. Tightening the front piece will pull the helmet forward, the back one will pull the helmet backwards. You'll have to play with it a bit until it is secured squarely on your head.
2) Providing adequate protection. First of all, it's not the hard part of a helmet that is gonna protect you from getting a gnarly concussion. It's the padding inside the helmet. You want a helmet with thick padding to protect your brain, and some derby helmets even come with removable, washable (hand wash, air dry), terry cloth lining to reduce helmet funk.The Triple Eight Sweatsaver and the S1 OG DLX both come with this feature and as a bonus, you can just replace the lining after taking a few hard hits. With standard helmets you want to replace the entire helmet after taking one hit to a few hits, depending on the certification of the helmet. If your helmet is CPSC certified (it will say on the box), then you should replace it after a single hard blow.
If it's ATSM certified, you probably have about 3 in there (depending the severity of the fall), but should err on the side of caution when concussions are a possiblity.Considering that the helmets that we use range from $20-$50, being able to replace the liner for $15 is a pretty good deal. The following brands (in addition to those listed above) all have replaceable liners: S1 Damager, S1 Trian, Protec Classic, Protec B2, Protec Ace, Sure Grip. Personally, I like the Triple Eight Sweatsaver and the S1 OG DLX- the lining of both of these is very plush and absorbant, so I don't get as much sweat in my eyes.
3) Color and material. Helmets made out of the gummy matte material may make it harder to get jammer and pivot panties on and off, so if you regularly play these positions you may want to try someone's out before buying one. I haven't had any problems personally, but it's a preference. Some teams want all of their girls to have matching helmets, and some girls just really love the color pink, but keep in mind that the color of your helmet may make you stick out in a bad way. If you are the team's hardest hitter, you are going to be a lot easier to target if you are the only girl on your team wearing a bright yellow helmet.
Hope the info helps, ladies! Remember, derby is a mental game, so protect your noggin.