As of May 1, 2021, USPA Members must wear NOCSAE-compliant helmets in all actual outdoor and arena polo games at USPA Member Clubs, not just USPA Events.
The USPA Rules Committee has learned that some USPA Members and some USPA Member Clubs mistakenly believe that NOCSAE-compliant helmets need only be worn in USPA Events. That is a misconception. NOCSAE-compliant helmets must be worn in all actual outdoor and arena polo games (not including practice games) at USPA Member Clubs, not just USPA Events and not just games umpired by USPA professional Umpires. All actual games.
These rules apply to you unless you qualify for one of the existing variances and you have signed the applicable USPA Waiver and Acknowledgement.
USPA Outdoor Rule 4a and USPA Arena Rule3a(2) each state that, “[n]o player may participate in any USPA Event or Club Event in anything other than a proper uniform, including a protective helmet with a chin strap, which must be worn in the appropriate manner specified by the manufacturer of the helmet. . . . Effective May 1, 2021, the protective helmet required by this rule for players must be certified to meet the NOCSAE ND050 Standard Performance Specification for Newly Manufactured Polo Helmets.”
The terms “USPA Event” and “Club Event” are each defined in Part I of the USPA Tournament Conditions, and these definitions make clear that every actual polo game is either a Club Event or a USPA Event. The USPA Rules and Tournament Conditions apply to all USPA Members and at all USPA Member Clubs. And both USPA Outdoor Rule 11b and USPA Arena Rule 1d state that “no USPA Member Club or Host Tournament Committee may adopt any variance” from the rules requiring NOCSAE-compliant helmets.
USPA Members and USPA Member Clubs each agree annually to comply with all USPA rules and policies. Thus, if you are a USPA Member, you must wear a NOCSAE-compliant helmet in all actual polo games, both outdoor and arena. And if you run a USPA Member Club, you must require your players to wear NOCSAE-compliant helmets in all actual polo games, both outdoor and arena.
As of October 1, 2021, there will be only three USPA-approved variances from the NOCSAE-compliant helmet rules.
Casablanca and Charles Owen, the only two current manufacturers of NOCSAE-compliant helmets, have assured the USPA that all existing orders for NOCSAE-compliant helmets will be filled by October 1, 2021. For that reason, the USPA Executive Committee has decided to terminate all existing variances from USPA Outdoor Rule 4.a and USPA Arena Rule 3.a(2) – the NOCSAE-compliant helmet rules which took effect on May 1, 2021 – except for the three variances set out below, which are now in effect and will remain in effect:
First, any new Member who joined the USPA for the first time on or after May 1, 2021, or who rejoined the USPA on or after that date following an absence of at least two years, and who does not possess a NOCSAE-compliant helmet, may nevertheless participate in a USPA Event or Club Event using a protective helmet that is not a NOCSAE-compliant helmet, if he or she provides definitive proof that on a date within 30 days of joining or re-joining the USPA but no more than six months previously, he or she ordered a NOCSAE-compliant helmet which has not yet been delivered, provided that each such affected USPA Member first executes in writing (a) a waiver of liability in favor of the USPA and its Member Clubs for any claims that might arise from the use of a helmet that is not a NOCSAE-compliant helmet, and (b) an acknowledgment that this variance will expire as to him or her when the NOCSAE-compliant helmet he or she has ordered is delivered.UNITED STATES POLO ASSOCIATION RELEASE AND WAIVER OF LIABILITY, ASSUMPTION OF RISK AND INDEMNITY AGREEMENT
Second, any USPA Member who can demonstrate that he or she does in fact possess a NOCSAE-compliant helmet that has been damaged, and who provides definitive proof that he or she has ordered another NOCSAE-compliant helmet no more than six months previously, which has not yet been delivered, may nevertheless participate in a USPA Event or Club Event using a protective helmet that is not a NOCSAE-compliant helmet, provided that each such affected USPA Member first executes in writing (a) a waiver of liability in favor of the USPA and its Member Clubs for any claims that might arise from the use of a helmet that is not a NOCSAE-compliant helmet, and (b) an acknowledgment that the variance will expire as to him or her when the NOCSAE-compliant helmet he or she has ordered is delivered. (Note that this variance can be applied when a NOCSAE-compliant helmet is damaged during a game to allow the USPA Member to finish the game in a non-compliant helmet, provided that each such affected USPA Member (1) agrees to promptly provide after the game proof of purchase for a new NOCSAE-compliant helmet, and (2) executes in writing (a) a waiver of liability in favor of the USPA and its Member Clubs for any claims that might arise from the use of a helmet that is not a NOCSAE-compliant helmet, and (b) an acknowledgment that the variance will expire as to him or her when the NOCSAE-compliant helmet he or she is ordering has been delivered.)UNITED STATES POLO ASSOCIATION RELEASE AND WAIVER OF LIABILITY, ASSUMPTION OF RISK AND INDEMNITY AGREEMENT
Third, any USPA member who is age 13 years old or younger and whose head is not large enough to use a currently commercially available NOCSAE Compliant Helmet may nevertheless participate in a USPA Event or Club Event using a protective helmet that is not a NOCSAE Compliant Helmet, provided that (1) this proposed variance will expire when two NOCSAE Compliant Helmets are commercially available in a smaller size that fits the affected USPA Member; (2) that each such affected USPA Member’s parent or guardian first executes in writing (a) a waiver of liability and (b) an acknowledgment that the variance for their child or ward will expire when two NOCSAE Compliant Helmets are commercially available in a size that fits the affected USPA Member and the child or ward is able to take delivery of one such promptly purchased NOCSAE Compliant Helmet; (3) the non-compliant helmet is always worn with a chin strap and in the appropriate manner specified by the helmet manufacturer; and (4) the affected USPA Member uses appropriate eye protection (i.e., a facemask or safety goggles).UNITED STATES POLO ASSOCIATION RELEASE AND WAIVER OF LIABILITY, ASSUMPTION OF RISK AND INDEMNITY AGREEMENT: 13 YEARS OLD OR YOUNGER & HEAD TOO SMALL FOR NOCSAE COMPLIANT HELMET
If you have any questions about how the NOCSAE-compliant helmet rules apply to you or your club, or about how any existing variances may apply to you, please contact USPA Membership and Handicap Director Lindsay Dolan for clarification. But remember, NOCSAE-compliant helmets must be worn in all actual outdoor and arena polo games (not including practice games) at USPA Member Clubs, not just USPA Events and not just games umpired by USPA professional Umpires. All actual games.
The USPA would like to share the following information regarding the upcoming changes to the USPA Helmet Requirements (Outdoor Rule 4 and Arena Rule 3). Beginning May 1, 2021 players participating in USPA Events and Club Events, which include any USPA National, Circuit or Sanctioned tournament or league, any Intercollegiate/Interscholastic or National Youth Tournament Series event, as well as any club-level game, league or tournament, will be required to wear helmets that pass the NOCSAE ND050 Polo Helmet Standard. Over the past several years, the USPA Safety Committee has done extensive research on polo helmet safety and has consulted with experts in the departments of bio engineering, sports safety, and liability. In the fall of 2017, the Safety Committee recommended that the Board adopt a rule requiring players to wear a helmet that meets the NOCSAE Polo Helmet Standard to help to reduce the possibility of brain injury. The Board approved the changes to the USPA Rules to take effect May 1, 2021. The Board will continue to monitor the availability of helmets that meet the NOCSAE standard. Please review the following information and feel free to reach out to USPA Membership and Handicap Director Lindsay Dolan at firstname.lastname@example.org should you have any questions.
- NOCSAE is an independent and nonprofit standards development body that has certification standards for football, baseball, lacrosse, hockey, soccer and many other sports. They are also the only organization that has a certification standard that is specific to the sport of polo. In addition, participants in the SEI certification program must hold a valid license agreement with NOCSAE.
- In order to receive SEI (Safety Equipment Institute) Certification for ND050 Polo Helmets, manufacturers must pass physical testing of their product, have an on-site audit of their manufacturing facility, have an approved recall procedure, and must maintain $2 million product liability insurance.
- The Virginia Tech Helmet lab conducted a review of standards for evaluating helmet performance. In doing so, they compared the following standards: NOCSAE ND050, PAS 015:2001 with BSI Kitemark, VG1 01.040-2014 with BSI Kitemark, (BS) EN 1384:2017 with CE mark, AS/NZS 3838: 2006, ASTM F1163, and Snell E2001. Following their review, the Virginia Tech Helmet lab recommended the NOCSAE ND050 standard above all of the others. To review the findings, please see the following link: https://www.uspolo.org/assets/pdf/Virginia-Tech-Polo-Standards.pdf
- Currently, the Casablanca NEU and the Charles Owen Sovereign are the only helmets that pass both the NOCSAE Polo Standard and the standard required by the Hurlingham Polo Association. As additional helmets that pass the NOCSAE Polo Standard become available, they will be added to the list of approved helmets.
- Eye protection, such as a facemask must be deemed as an “authorized accessory” by the helmet manufacturer. If the facemask is an “authorized accessory” then it does not void the certification. However, if the end user applies a facemask that is not the helmet manufacturer’s “authorized accessory,” then the NOCSAE/SEI Certification would be void.
- Armis and Instinct do not currently produce any helmets that pass the NOCSAE ND050 standard. The USPA conducted preliminary testing in 2017, and at that time there were no helmets that passed the NOCSAE ND050 Standard. In order to obtain this certification, manufacturers will need to develop new helmets or revise current helmet designs to meet the standard.
- Manufacturers may offer discounts to USPA Members, youth players, and for bulk orders. Please contact the manufacturers directly for additional information.
- The USPA is not directly affiliated with any helmet manufacturer and manufacturers have the ability to set their own pricing and may offer discounts.
- Generic riding helmets, which may pass other standards such as the ASTM F1163 Equestrian standard, undergo a different testing protocol and must be replaced after a single impact. Notably, the NOCSAE ND050 testing is designed specifically for the sport of Polo and accounts for multiple impacts which occur from the rider falling, being struck with a mallet or ball or coming in contact with another player. It is also important to note that MIPS (Multi-Directional Impact Protection System) technology is not required for the NOCSAE ND050 standard.