Researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington have collaborated with the helmet development company, VICIS, funded and supported by the NFL, Under Armour, GE and NIST (under the banner Head Health Challenge), to develop the Zero1 football helmet. This revolutionary helmet is designed to absorb impact more effectively than helmets currently being used at all levels of the game.
The outer shell of the helmet yields on impact like a car bumper and has proven to be so successful that select NFL and NCAA football teams will be able to try it as early as this spring in time for use in the 2016-17 season.
The helmet incorporates four different layers – the outer LODE Shell that gives way on impact then returns to its original form before the next hit; the Core Layer that slows the forces from both straightforward hits or glancing blows; and the ARCH Shell and FORM Liner that add both additional protection and a more customized fit that conforms the helmet to the head of the individual wearer. Although this technology has existed in the auto industry for dozens of years, VICIS is the first company to bring deformation technology to a football helmet.
The helmet developers have also added an additional level of customization called the AXIS Fit System, that incorporates head length and breadth measurements rather than just head circumference.
Each Zero1 helmet will also feature a quick-release mechanism to allow for easier removal during an emergency without the use of special tools, and more aerodynamic facemasks to improve visibility.
“We don’t have the typical helmet, with the hard shell and some padding on the inside,” says Vicis CEO and founder Dave Marver in a video on the company’s website. “We can reduce acceleration, we can make a difference and it’s because we’ve come about this in such a profoundly different way.”
According to VICIS, a team of neurosurgeons and engineers spent two years developing the ZERO1, with input from equipment managers and athletic trainers. The cost of each helmet will be high initially, maybe up to US$1,500, with the price to be less for younger athletes as the helmet design becomes more refined.
Riddell introduced the SpeedFlex helmet in 2014 that featured a front panel that gave upon impact, along with a more flexible facemask designed to take some of the force of an impact, and an optional sensing system that could wirelessly notify sideline staff of a significant hit to a player’s head.
As the issue of concussions continues to be discussed and with the arrival of the movie “Concussion”, more and more companies are stepping into the field to find better ways of improving safety in football worldwide.
The video below shows the VICIS Zero1 helmet in more detail.