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The Importance of the NOCSAE Certification

Key Takeaways

  • National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) is an independent and non-profit organization whose responsibility is to set standards for the equipment used in youth sports
  • It’s sole mission is to enhance athletic safety through scientific research and the creation of performance standards for athletic development. 

Setting the Standard

The National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) was formed in 1969 to minimize the number of severe head and cervical spine traumas by mandating that sports equipment manufacturers follow a standard safety rules to make the equipment safer.

NOCSAE works closely with the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) requirements to ensure that high school games use equipment with NOCSAE or NFHS certification logos.

Baseball and Softball Batting Helmets

The Batting Helmet NOCSAE standard for manufacturers was published around 1980.

The standard was designated as the baseball and softball batting helmet standard in 1983.

NOCSAE NCAA NFHS partnership in baseball equipment certification

According to NOCSAE history, the NCAA, NFHS baseball rules, as well as most youth play organizations such as Little League, USA Baseball, ASA, and others, required the use of helmets which met the NOCSAE standard starting in 1985.

A parent can easily identify certified helmets, as the seal “Meets NOCSAE Standard” is permanently stamped on the rear portion of each helmet.

NFHS entity utilizes a variety of programs (i.e. NFHS Authentication Mark Program or “Stamps”, NFHS Coaching certifications) to promote a level playing field by ensuring consistency in the equipment used in NINTHS-sanctioned school competitions.

It is important to differentiate between a chest protector and a chest guard.

A chest protector is a functional equipment used by baseball (and softball) catchers to control (or block) the ball in the dirt without getting hurt.

A chest guard is commonly worn by all baseball players to minimize the risk of commotio cordis which is a disruption in the rhythm of the heart that occurs when a blunt force (i.e. baseball) hits the heart area in the chest.

Many kids don’t like wear it and some parents argue that they do very little but in my opinion, it is a small price to pay for a peace of mind when you are coaching young kids.

In my years as a league board member and coach, I require all my players to wear a chest guard.

Purchasing equipment with NOCSAE certification is one of the ways to ensure that your kid is protected from injury.

It goes without saying that regardless of the safety certifications, the equipment MUST BE PROPERLY FITTED.

That means, although it will be expensive, you should NOT purchase a piece of equipment so that your child can use it for couple of seasons.

You should also check all equipment on a periodic basis to make sure that they are not damaged.

  • What type of batting helmets do youth baseball leagues require?
    • Babe Ruth (Cal Ripken), Little League International, Dixie, etc. all require that baseball and softball players wear a batting helmet that is certified by NOCSAE (National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment)

  • As of January 2022, do players need to install a “C-flap” on their batting helmets (C-flap is an additional piece of plastic that extends over the cheek / jaw area to for protection against baseball)?
    • The decision to require this additional piece is up to each local leagues. Players usually are also allowed to wear helmets with face cages

  • Can we attach C-flaps to old helmets?
    • Any helmets made from 2018 should already have a set of holes to accept the C-flap attachment. The majority of baseball equipment manufacturers like Boombah, Easton, Evoshield, Markwort, Rawlings and Schutt all offer NOCSAE certified C-flaps. However, it would be best to match the brands of a helmet and C-flap to ensure that holes line up properly (i.e. Easton helmet with Easton C-flap). Under no circumstances should you drill your own holes to an old helmet to attach the C-flap as it voids NOCSAE certification (and if you are a coaching doing this, leave yourself open for lawsuits)