What are Football Visors and Why do Football Players Wear Them

One of the vital parts of American football is the helmet. Except for non-tackle variations such as flag football, it is a general requirement in playing the game.

As you know, helmets are required to prevent head injuries from a game brought about by a fall or collision, especially for contact sports like the football.

Most of the impact energy should be absorbed by the helmet, rather than your head or your brain.

Helmets consist of a hard plastic shell with thick padding on the inside.

It also has a face mask made of one or more plastic-coated metal bars, and a chinstrap. A variation to a traditional helmet a lot of football players do is the addition of polycarbonate visors.

What are football visors?

Also called "eye shield," these are affixed to the face mask to protect football players from glare. This also protects players from eye injuries such as pokes without reducing or blurring vision.

Usually, these eye shields fit easily onto almost any football helmet for instant eye protection.

Many football visors are designed clear for excellent vision and safety. 

However, over the years, manufacturers have begun developing tinted and filtered versions which act like high-quality sunglasses.

These colored versions reduce glare and are believed to improve vision.

Smoked and tinted are available in a wide range of shades such as amber, blue, metallic silver, and golds, black, polarized and even rainbow. 

Popular manufacturers include Oakley, Nike, and Under Armour, EliteTek, Bangerz, Schutt, etc.

Materials, styles, and designs

Most visors are made of polycarbonate (also called “PC”). This material is commonly used by manufacturers because it is both light and robust.

Apart from these, PC is the preferred material when it comes to creating eye shields because of a couple of reasons.

PC sheets sustain high impact, easily fabricated, resistant to heat or high temperature, flexible, and stable, and is said to have better chemical resistance.

PC sheets are not fog or scratch resistant. Adding more coating improves its optical properties.

Why do football players wear visors?

football game players

Are visors a requirement in playing the sport? No. However, most players prefer wearing them for a couple of reasons:

Safety and protection

The primary function of visors is to protect the user. Some players wear them temporarily to prevent damage an existing injury and then cease using it after the wound has been healed.

On the other hand, some players incorporate these gears in their game permanently to protect themselves from possible injury in the future.

Injuries may occur when fingers or a foot strike the eyes in the helmet's opening.

Improved vision

One more benefit of wearing visors is that it improves the player’s vision. Screens can be used as sunglasses and improve vision when staring into bright lights.

Unlike sunglasses that could fall during a game, visors would likely to stay in place.

For tactical reasons

Players wear these eye shields so they could prevent the other team from “reading” potential next moves.

Apparently, they make the player’s eyes not visible to their opponent. With this, the opponent will not be able to predict the tactics of the player.

How to install a visor


Installation should really be relatively straightforward. The tools you need depend on your helmet, but for some, you may need a screwdriver.

Step 1

If your helmet does not have the quick release clips, you have to unscrew the screw on your helmet manually. This is to get the face mask loose.

You do not have to take the face mask off, just to raise it so you can put in the eye shield better.

Note that some people do not do this as they just prefer to do this step. Instead, they just pop the visor in the helmet.

However, loosening up the face mask may give you a better fit for the screen.

Step 2

The first thing you want to do is to take off the quick release clips. You may do this by simply unscrewing them.

You can see these clips on the left and right bottom parts of the eye shield.

Step 3

Next step is, raise the face mask a little bit and slide the visor under. Once you have done that, check the fit and make sure it is aligned correctly in place. 

Step 4

To lock in, you have to put back the quick release clips. Install these on the space or hole between the bars on the face mask.

You need the space between bars to lock in the clips through the holes on the eye shield.

Get them as tight as needed so to prevent it from moving around during a game. Repeat this step on both sides. Just line it up and lock it in place. 

Step 5

Lastly, check the fit and alignment of the visor on your face mask. That should be it. Installing your eye shield is that quick and easy.

Are tinted visors illegal?

man responsibility

It has been a common question whether or not wearing tinted eye shields is illegal. The answer may depend on the level of competition one is into.

Rules differ among the body/group governing the specific level.

NFL Rules

The National Football League (NFL) released rules on the various types of helmet visors that are acceptable to wear starting with the 1998 NFL season when it outlawed tinted ones.

Based on Section 4 Article 3a of NFL rules, a player must provide the league with a doctor's note.

Also, the player must obtain approval from the league office so he will be allowed to wear a tinted visor.

If a player is caught wearing illegal eye shields, NFL officials will inform the player of the violation at the next change of possession.

The illegal visor should be removed from the helmet before the player is allowed to return to the field of play. 

If a player cited for a violation attempts to return to the ground without removing the visor, or he is observed wearing the illegal eye shield helmet on the sideline, he may be ejected from the game and subjected to further discipline from the league.

Clear ones are acceptable for all players even without league approval.

NFHS Rules

A slightly stricter rule is implemented by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).

According to Rules 1-6c4, high school football players are prohibited from wearing tinted eye shields or any other tinted eyewear.

Moreover, any visor that is attached to the face mask must be constructed of a molded rigid material. This provision is not a required specification for NFL.

NCAA Rules

College Athletic Association (NCAA) specifies rules same with the NFHS. According to Rule 1-4-5s, visors must be clear and free from tint, and they must be made of a material that is molded and rigid.

In case a player is proven to be using an illegal visor, his team will be charged with a timeout.

Additionally, the player will be required to leave the game until the said violation is fixed.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs):

Are there special visors for players made explicitly for players who are nearsighted, farsighted, or have other vision problems?

As of today, there are no prescription football visors. They are made of a single piece of curved material attached to the helmet, which is also how football helmet visors prevent injury.

Because of this (and also because of the distance from the eye), it may not be possible to make corrective screens.

As a recommendation, players who have eyesight problems may need to wear either prescription sports goggles or contact lenses to see properly during a game.

What if I need a football visor with UV protection?

Many clear visors still offer advanced UV protection. Note that not all have this feature so in case you are specifically looking for one, check the product description.

Before purchasing it, check to see if the one you have chosen blocks UVA, UVC, and other forms of light.