Albuquerque parents express concerns over YAFL helmets


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – It’s a recommendation that football helmets get recertified every year to help protect kids on the field, but a New Mexico mom is concerned YAFL isn’t doing enough to keep her son safe.

Football helmets are easily one of the most controversial pieces of sports equipment.

“Every helmet, when it’s new has to be certified as compliant with our standards,” Michael Oliver said.

Oliver is the Executive Director for the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE). NOCSAE’s headquarters is ran out of Kansas.

“Since about 1972 we have been developing performance standards for athletic equipment,” he said.

That includes the football helmet.

The newer, more advanced helmets can last up to ten years. Every helmet should have a sticker that shows when it was certified, or a recertification sticker and a stamp that says it meets NOCSAE standards.

“We’re the only standards organization in the world that provides a method for having a helmet re-certified to a standard it would have met when it was new,” Oliver said.

That re-certification sticker is what had one Albuquerque mom asking questions when she said YAFL issued her child a helmet.

“Our sticker had an initial life sticker of 2008 and another sticker of 2013 which tells me these helmets are not being looked at,” she said.

The mom sent KRQE News 13 photographs of the helmet. The second sticker on it had a re-certification date of 2013.

“It’s really hard on the youth level to know, but if that helmet was used every year between 2008 and now, yeah, it really should have been reconditioned and recertified before now,” Oliver said.

According to NOCSAE there is no mandate that requires helmets be re-certified every year, but Oliver said they strongly recommend it. He said it comes down to money, and most organizations can’t afford to have all their helmets reconditioned and recertified every year.

“So if you can’t do that, the next thing that we recommend is that half of the helmets be done every year,” he said.

That’s why Oliver said organizations have to keep a tight inventory.

The mom who spoke with KRQE News 13 didn’t want to be identified due to fear of retaliation.

She said when she confronted YAFL, staff brushed it off. She recorded the entire incident on her cell phone.

“He said, ‘Oh yeah, well we don’t do that. We don’t have to do that, that’s just a guideline, a recommendation.'”

A recommendation NOCSAE said every organization should take very seriously.

Parents who put their children in YAFL pay nearly $200 in fees that cover equipment.

“I wasn’t the only one this happened to, but most of the parents that I talked to just said, ‘Yeah, we end up buying our own helmet,'” she said.

Thursday, KRQE News 13 spoke with YALF’s spokesperson, Mizel Garcia, over the phone. He said YAFL sends its helmets to be reconditioned and recertified every other year.

When KRQE News 13 asked for an on camera interview, he responded, “The majority of these people on the board serve on a volunteer basis and have full-time jobs in addition to YAFL duties.”

So, KRQE News 13 directly reached out to YAFL’s President Elect Phil Plake, and Executive Director Bill Blair to discuss the organization’s policies and procedures when it comes to football helmets. We never heard back. Then when KRQE News 13 showed up at its headquarters, where they issue helmets, we were told no one was there who could speak with us.

The mom who did speak with KRQE News 13 said she just hopes other parents will now be on the lookout.

“Don’t accept this, not when it comes to the safety of our children,” she said. “I just really hope that parents look at these things. I didn’t until I got this trash helmet from nine years ago. They can’t just hand us any old thing that they have back there.”

The mother said YAFL finally issued her son a helmet that had a sticker showing it was recertified this year.

Instead, she said she bought her son a new helmet for $130.

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