New Football Helmet Could Reduce Injury

The University of Washington is developing a high-tech, next-generation football helmet engineered to reduce impact

To the head and therefore reduce the risk of concussion or skull fracture, company officials told Scout Warrior.

The new helmet, which received a Round II award from the NFL’s Head Heath Challenge effort, uses a multi-layered design to absorb impact from a head-on or rotational side collision, said Dave Marver, CEO and Co-founder of Vicis, the commercial arm of the University of Washington’s effort.

“An outer layer works in concert with an impact-absorbing layer to slow or absorb the forces from impact. It is designed to optimize the helmet’s ability to absorb straight ahead or linear and rotational impacts,” Marver told Scout Warrior in an interview.

Marver added that, upon impact, collisions with the new helmet will sound more like a rubbery thump as opposed to a “crack.”

The University of Washington received $250,000 in award money on top of an initial $500,000 from the Head Health Challenge, a research and innovation effort run by the NFL, General Electric and Under Armour to develop new technologies able to better diagnose, prevent and treat concussions and head injuries such as traumatic brain injury.

While Vicis does not wish to discuss the specifics of the materials used in the new helmet, they do say they plan for it to be operational by 2016.

The helmet’s design, which is configured to look and feel like an existing helmet, has been tested with input from existing college football players.

“We've interfaced with teams and gotten feedback on design, asthetics and style. The reaction has been very good,” Marver added. “The idea is not be too radical. The helmet has to have a design that players will embrace, otherwise they won't benefit from the safety. The dimensions and weight are similar to those on today's helmets.”

Vicis and the Univ. of Washington have been developing the helmet for more than two years.

“We do a combination of bench testing using industry standard impact fixtures - as well as human-factors testing where former college players give us feedback on its fit, comfort and visibility,” Marver added.

While the military has been largely involved with the Head Health Challenge, including helping to assess the various proposals, the technology has not yet been tested against combat-zone blast experience, Vicis officials said.

Vicis scientists do say, however, that the helmet could be very helpful in reducing impact or collision-related injuries to soldier helmets.

The Vicis, Univ. of Washington plan is to first introduce the helmet at the elite level of football play and then migrate further toward youth football. In fact, in time, the makers of the new helmet believe the technology could have benefits for hockey and lacrosse players, as well.

NFL executives tell Scout Warrior they are enthusiastic about the technology.

“We want to bring the future forward faster, and the technologies we’ve seen as a result of this challenge are doing just that. These innovations will soon provide safer fields, helmets and protective equipment for our athletes, military and society in general,” Jeff Miller, NFL Vice President for Health and Safety, told Scout Warrior.

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