September 18, 2016
It’s football season once again, and aside from seeing endless fantasy football commercials, it also marks the reigniting of discussions about the concussion issue in the NFL. In recent years, studies have shown that the long term effects of concussions can be disastrous to a football player’s mental and physical health. Among other afflictions, long term damage from concussions can create symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease. In the 2015 season alone, players suffered a total of 271 reported concussions. Though there is a new “concussion protocol” that prevents players from returning to the field until properly healed and new rules in place to discourage the kind of hits that cause the head injury, the frequency of concussions still rose by nearly 32%.
Vicis, a Seattle-based firm who received a grant by the NFL to research solutions to this problem, has just debuted a new football helmet that could do just that.
The Zero1 Football Helmet
Vicis’ solution to the concussion problem is a multi-layered, flexible helmet that bends to absorb an impact. In total, the football helmet has four layers of protection that work in unison to prevent brain damage during a collision.
- The Lode Shell: The outermost layer of the helmet is called the Lode Shell. Unlike the rigid exterior of existing helmets, the Lode Shell will bend and deform as pressure is placed upon it. It works using the same principles as a car bumper which will bend during a collision.
- Core Layer: Beneath the Lode Shell is the Core Layer which consists of “columns” of protective material with negative space between them. Upon impact, these columns can bend and shift in all directs as they distribute the incoming force.
- Arch Shell: Deeper still beneath the Core Layer is the Arch Shell. The Arch Shell forms the interior of the helmet and is custom-designed to fit the ratio of head length to breadth.
- Form Liner: Finally, the Form Liner conforms to the shape of the players head and works with the Arch Shell to disperse pressure to the head.
The Zero1 helmet is also designed to fit a player’s head better than the average equipment. Normally, helmets are sized by measuring a player’s total head circumference. The Zero1 instead uses the ratio between the head length and breadth. This creates a much better, more accurate fit as it accounts for two dimensions of the head’s shape. A better fitting helmet creates less negative space inside to jostle the head.
A Revolutionary Advancement, but Price is a Barrier
The average football helmet costs approximately $200, but the Zero1 runs at a much higher rate. It has a lofty price tag at $1500 per helmet, and while professional football teams and large college programs can certainly afford the price bump, the Zero1 may be out of reach of smaller organizations. High schools, recreational teams, and small colleges may need to find an alternative way to curb the threat of concussions in their sports teams.
But for some, the Zero1 looks to be an exciting innovation in safety equipment.
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