Is the New NFL Helmet the Safest Headgear in Football?
With over 200 diagnosed concussions each year in the NFL, it’s somewhat surprising that there have been few helmet innovations in the past 40 years to address the growing issue. What’s even more surprising is that elite athletes in the NFL have typically been wearing the same helmets that are sold in any sporting goods store and worn by weekend warriors and student athletes who play a much less dangerous version of the game.
All of this is changing with the new helmet that has been introduced by VICIS called the ZERO1. The helmet, which has been ranked number 1 by the NFL and NFLPA in terms of safety, carries a much higher price tag than normal helmets (upwards of $1500), but is well worth it for those whose livelihood and health depends on the gear they wear to protect themselves. So what makes the ZERO1 so different? Here are some ways it excels:
It Has a More Flexible Shell
Traditional helmets have had hard plastic shells that don’t yield much when impacted. When material doesn’t yield, it does not offer any cushion and also tends to weaken or crack on impact. The new helmets are made of a material that has much more yield, making them stronger and cushioning the wearer’s head better in the event of an impact.
It Has Layered Columns
The new ZERO1’s multi-layered columns lessen the impact of any hit and slow the forces involved in a collision. Once the innovative outer shell yields on impact, the force of the hit is redistributed throughout the series of plates in the helmet instead of redistributing the force throughout the player’s head.
It Offers an Expanded Field of Vision
Avoiding collisions altogether is the best prevention against dangerous impacts and possible concussions. The new ZERO1 takes this fact into consideration and offers an expanded field of vision that allows players to have wider visual access to the field and to oncoming threats. Though they may not be able to avoid most of the hits coming their way, they can at least avoid being blind-sided and be able to best prepare themselves for a collision
It Features an Argon-Bathed Facemask
The titanium facemasks in the new ZERO1 are no different than other helmets, but they offer the added benefit of being bathed in argon. What does this do? Argon purges oxygen from the titanium surface of the facemasks which strengthens them. An oxygenated material is one that is brittle and can corrode and the new facemasks on the ZERO1 should stand up to wear and tear much better than their predecessors.
The Fit of the Helmet is Greatly Improved
There weren’t a whole lot of choices for sizing with past helmets, and this caused a lot of problems. The better fit a helmet has, the better protection it can offer. The ZERO1 has 300 different sizing options and can be customized for each player. Though this is one of the reasons why the price tag is so much higher, it’s imperative for a well-fitted and safe piece of headgear. It also prevents the need for additional padding which can compromise the fit, comfort, and safety of a helmet.
Roughly half of the teams in the NFL have the new helmet available, though it is up to the individual players to choose whether they wear it or not. Many college teams are also exploring the use of the new helmet and the manufacturer hopes that it can eventually introduce a version of the helmet to all levels of football. Those players who have worn the helmet in the NFL have noticed a reduction in the impact they feel during a hit and are optimistic that this new technology, along with other innovations, will lead to a decrease in dangerous concussions.