The advisability of wearing plastic helmets with face masks is not discussed much anymore, but it was a big topic from the mid-1950s to the early 1960s. During that time, football players transitioned from suffering facial and dental to neck injuries, mainly because tacklers and blockers in more protective gear were coached to spear or stick their helmets into opposing players' sternums or ribs.
The number of neck injuries soon led to changes in tackling and blocking techniques, but not before trainers and other coaches developed methods for strengthening neck muscles.
Everyone who played in the era spent time performing isometric exercises pressing the side of their helmet against a teammate's knee, hoping to attain the thickest neck in the history of the human race. Others hung weights from canvas straps and performed neck lifts in at least four directions.
However, these seemingly well-considered exercises do not approach the silliness of the weighted helmet, first shown to the world at Oregon State before the 1968 season. Devised by assistant trainer Eddie Ferrell, the weighted helmet was a standard helmet with a hole drilled into the top, from which a one-inch post projected from the helmet.
The one-inch post fit most weights used in those pre-Olympic bar days, so placing a few five-pound weights atop your helmet before doing whatever exercises they performed were simple. Unfortunately, the available information does not tell us if players ran around the field heavy-headed or if they did controlled movements. Either way, they must have recognized they looked pretty silly.
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