National football helmet shortage is felt in Minnesota

APPLE VALLEY, Minnesota — Supply chain issues have now extended to the high school gridiron as schools across the country and in the Twin Cities struggle to find enough football helmets at the start of the season.

Schools in Minnesota, like East View High School in Apple Valley, have had to get creative while waiting for their own supplies to arrive.

The school’s athletic director, Matt Percival, said they order two dozen new helmets a year based on the sizes they need and how many helmets need to be replaced for safety reasons.

Percival said orders are normally placed in February and shipments arrive in time for the new school year, but there have been significant delays over the past two years due to the supply chain issue.

As a temporary solution, Eastview and schools across the state are swapping helmets for the sizes they need.

Eastview takes on Woodbury at 7 p.m. Friday. Percival said all players will have helmets, but not all will match because some players will have Eden Prairie, Eagan and St. Paul academy helmets.

Percival said the pandemic has really taught coaches and players to be flexible, creative and to remember the true meaning of sportsmanship.

“Football coaches are amazing,” Percival said. “I mean they’re really in the sense that they’re intense and they’re obviously competitive people. Anytime they’re going to play a game and yet they also keep the bigger picture in mind, I guess, trying to get the kids to play the sport and if that means we’ll donate our helmets to Eden Prairie so we can get some from Eagan, then so be it.”

Unlike many other sports equipment that can be shared, football helmets need to be sized to fit a player’s head enough to ensure they are protected when hit.

Percival said that although the school has many sizes, they didn’t want to take any risks when it came to safety.

“Obviously everyone has to make their own choices about what they would do,” he said. “It has to fit snugly and I guess there’s always a little wiggle room for every child, but you don’t want them to cross that line of being too loose or even too tight because of the potential that it can cause long-term damage it’s not worth it.”

Eastview is still around a couple dozen helmets short for the season, but there isn’t really a timeline on when they might arrive, as Percival said deliveries have been sporadic.

WCCO contacted the two major helmet manufacturers Riddell and Schutt, but did not hear back either.

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