Football is about playing hard and playing fast, but it also involves a lot of safety risks. Movies like Concussion bring up issues about how many players suffer from brain trauma from the game. How can we improve the players’ safety without affecting their game? (My father stopped watching the game due to the disregard for player safety. I see why.) However, helmet manufacturer VICIS and the University of Washington are working on the ZERO1, a new football helmet designed to absorb more shock and impact than current designs.
What makes the ZERO1 helmet different from traditional designs is its four layers blow-softening material–it’s similar to the idea behind car bumpers. There’s the Outer Lode Shell that actually crumples on impact and then returns to its original form before next hit; the Core layer which slows the force from both straightforward hits or glancing blows; then the Arch Shell and Form Liner which work together for additional protection. Both the shell and the liner come in different styles to provide the right fit for different players.
More customization is available through the company’s VICIS Axis Fit System, which looks at the head length and breadth measurements to figure out the best helmet size for a player. Current helmets only take head circumference in account. With measurements taken from current and former NFL and NCAA football players the Axis Fit System provides an anatomically correct fit based on head shapes of the best athletes. This means the ZERO1 is available in 12 different sizing combinations erasing the need for shims and air bladders. Not only will the players be well protected, they’ll be comfortable as well, making it easier to keep their head in the game.
“We don’t have the typical helmet, with the hard shell and some padding on the inside,” says VICIS CEO and founder, Dave Marver. “We can reduce acceleration, we can make a difference and it’s because we’ve come about this in such a profoundly different way.”
VICIS wasn’t alone in designing the helmet. They worked with a team of neurosurgeons and engineers along with input from equipment managers and athletic trainers to improve the design.
“Artefact, a Seattle-based design firm, created the initial design. Their approach for the design is this idea of ‘modern-classic’,” explains Kurt Fischer, of the VICIS RDI team. “As you know, there’s a lot of heritage in football, plenty of tradition and history. Artefact wanted to respect that, by incorporating a vintage aspect. At the same time, they wanted it to be contemporary. Together, we are working to modernize a classic in some sense. We want to take the feelings from the past and add a new high-tech look and feel of the modern world. Artefact did an outstanding job, providing a great foundation for us, and we have continued to evolve and refine the design.”
It took two years to develop the ZERO1 and is now ready to be unleashed. Each helmet will cost $1,500 with the price to be less for younger athletes. The ZERO1 is expected to be available for select NFL and NCAA football teams thing spring and worn in the 2016-17 season. It’s a hefty price to pay, but it’s more than worth if it can keep our athletes better protected.
Growing up in Chicago, football died for me with the ’85 Bears. I doubt this, or any helmet, would protect from that team’s intention to hurt the opponents as bad as possible. Fun to watch back then, as a kid, but it’s a brutal sport where a helmet like this couldn’t be needed faster.