NEW YORK -- The NFL, its players' union and the NCAA are donating money to provide new helmets to youth football players in low-income communities.
They've joined with the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment to commit a total of about $1 million to an initiative started by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
The program, announced Tuesday, will remove helmets that are at least 10 years old and replace them with new models while providing safety education to coaches. It is expected to distribute 13,000 new helmets this year starting in July.
The pilot program will take place in four communities: the Bay Area, the Gulf Coast region, northern Ohio and greater New York City.
As of this year, National Athletic Equipment Reconditioners Association members will no longer recondition or recertify any helmet that is at least 10 years old. CPSC Chair Inez Tenenbaum says research shows older helmets may not offer the same protection.
NOCSAE will use the old helmets for research.
USA Football will administer the program, which is also supported by NAERA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association. Rawlings, Riddell, Schutt and Xenith are providing discounted helmets.
Head injuries have become a major issue at all levels of football. The NFL, which has cracked down on illegal hits in recent years, faces lawsuits from hundreds of former players about its past practices on safety and concussions.
The announcement of the youth helmet program includes the acknowledgement that "helmets do not prevent concussions" and emphasizes the importance of the coach education portion.
"This program is part of our focus on player safety at all levels of the game," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in the announcement.