Atlas Obscura is organizing trips! Join us on an adventure »
Today Only: 50% off Atlas Obscura books and calendars at Barnes & Noble »

Watch a Man Test an Early Football Helmet by Getting Kicked in the Head

Ah, the days before NFL safety regulations.

Slather those chicken wings in orange coating and pour that light beer, because football’s back. The NFL juggernaut spurs into action tonight, as the Panthers play the Broncos to kick off the new season. 

Running backs, linebackers, the kicker and indeed every member of the squad will be equipped to the nines with the latest gear. Boots to run faster, jerseys that are more slippy and helmets that are more secure. All this modern equipment and sporting technology is tested and developed over months by engineers in laboratories.

But it wasn’t always that way.

Back in 1932, football helmets were still considered new. Not long before then, they were not even mandatory. Early designs were leather, and they proved to be largely ineffective. In the early ’30s there was a growing demand for better headgear. The gentleman in this British Pathé video thinks he has the answer. The bespectacled chap wishes, rather darkly, to “rid the game of fatalities” with his new invention. 

How should one test this out? Perhaps not in line with the scientific methods of today, but the answer is simple: kick him in the head. Football players in pads and boots, huddle round him and one thwacks him right on the noggin. Others laugh and mercilessly tell him, presumably the team’s kicker, to do it again. Three boots to the bean, in all.

Next, it’s time to get smacked with a stick. The creator of the hardened hat, wincing, at least sees the funny side of it. After a good knock, he says: “it’s like my mother in law isn’t it?” 

It gets worse. 

Sprinting into a wall, obviously head first, our man shows the true strength of the helmet, and is knocked back onto his behind. Everything intact, he charges again. Bosh. And as the narrator points out, “he actually seems to enjoy it.”

Every day we track down a Video Wonder: an audiovisual offering that delights, inspires, and entertains. Have you encountered a video we should feature? Email ella@atlasobscura.com.