Port Jefferson athletic director Debra Ferry learned of the Virginia Tech helmet ratings after Shoreham-Wading River high school player Thomas Cutinella died as the result of a helmet-to-helmet hit during a game last season. Ferry said she was spurred to take a closer look at her inventory. Any helmet that wasn’t rated five stars, she crossed off the list. Ferry planned to replace those helmets with five-star helmets, but then she asked herself this question: “If this was your son, which helmet would you want on his head?” She said she struggled with the thought of giving a brand-new helmet to one student and an older — but still highly rated — helmet to another student.
She said she knew then the only option she was comfortable with was replacing Port Jefferson’s entire inventory with the best available helmets. Going that route is rare; schools typically buy about 10 new helmets per year at a cost of between $150 and $400 each. “If you’re going to provide our kids with the top of the line, then provide all our kids with top of the line,” she said. “It’s a difficult battle to fight as an athletic director at a school district to say, ‘We’re going to implement this process slowly’ when it comes to a kid’s safety.” She presented the information regarding the helmets, including pricing, to the Board of Education at a Dec. 9 meeting and was given the go-ahead. The next day, records show, she bought 50 five-star helmets for $14,749.