NFL Convenes Innovators & Biomechanical Engineering Experts at Forum for Player Protection

NFL and Football Research, Inc. also Announce HeadHealthTECH Challenges to Drive Advancements in Protective Equipment and Technology

Last month, in Washington, D.C., the National Football League (NFL) and Football Research, Inc. (FRI) hosted a first-of-its-kind educational conference — The HeadHealthTECH Symposium: Fundamental Biomechanics of Concussion in the NFL. World-class biomechanical and biomedical engineering experts educated hundreds of innovators—from inventors to equipment manufacturers to engineering students—on the latest knowledge regarding the causes of concussion in professional football, including the best tools available for assessing and optimizing the design and manufacture of protective equipment.

As part of its Play Smart. Play Safe. initiative announced in September, the NFL pledged $60 million toward the creation and funding of a five-year plan called the Engineering Roadmap that will be managed by FRI, a nonprofit corporation formed and financially supported by the NFL. The Engineering Roadmap is a dedicated and comprehensive plan to create incentives for helmet companies, manufacturers, small businesses, entrepreneurs, universities and others from around the world to develop new and improved helmets and protective equipment over the next three to five years. As part of the Engineering Roadmap, the NFL and/or FRI will host periodic symposia or other educational efforts to allow experts to share the most up-to-date biomechanical and biomedical information.

nfl-headhealth-tech-02In addition, the NFL and FRI created the HeadHealthTECH Challenges, a series of innovation challenges intended to deepen understanding of and advance solutions in the areas of head protection, materials science, head kinematics, among others. The TECH Challenges are structured to stimulate research and innovation, as well as encourage connections with mentors and/or venture capitalists, with a goal of spurring developments in engineering, biomechanics, advanced sensors and material science. The TECH Challenges will be operated and managed by Duke University’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (Duke CTSI).  At the symposium, the NFL and FRI announced the launch of the first of these challenges — TECH Challenge I — which aims to produce advanced solutions in protective equipment and technology that can lead to significant gains in head protection.

Up to three HeadHealthTECH Challenges will be offered annually, dedicating funds to those with the most promising ideas. A panel of expert judges selected by Duke CTSI, in collaboration with FRI, will evaluate all proposals.  Funding will be awarded by FRI. Duke CTSI will work closely with funding recipients to develop and mature their ideas. All individuals or institutions submitting proposals will retain ownership over their ideas at all times.

“We’re going to connect the experts doing groundbreaking research on injury biomechanics and prevention with the innovators who are eager to create next generation solutions,” said Jeff Miller, NFL Executive Vice President of Health and Safety Initiatives. “Previous Head Health Challenges have catalyzed the development of many new products; our work going forward will bring a direct focus on the injury biomechanics of football and create incentives for the wisdom of the marketplace to design and manufacture improved equipment.”

“The programs and conversations that we launched today will drive innovation in the research community and the marketplace that will result in better protection and management of head injuries,” said Barry Myers, MD, PhD, MBA, Director of Innovation Duke CTSI, Coulter Program Director and Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Duke University and a consultant to the NFLPA.

The HeadHealthTECH Challenges build on the successful model of the NFL’s Head Health Challenge competitions with GE, Under Armour and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which crowdsourced innovative ideas from engineering experts around the world and provided financial support to further develop leading concepts.

TECH Challenge I, which is open from November 10 through December 15, invites proposals focused on helmet technologies and surfaces that helmets contact, including turf, grass, other helmets and opponent padding. Support for the most promising opportunities will be provided by FRI. The TECH Challenges are renewable annually for up to the next five years.

Information about HeadHealthTECH Challenges and the process for making a submission can be found at:

For more information about Play Smart. Play Safe., and to read the Commissioner’s letter to fans, please visit

For more information on the NFL’s Engineering Roadmap, please visit roadmap/.

For more information on Football Research, Inc., please visit

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