Football has not seen a significant overhaul to its player equipment since the 1960s, but that is about to change during this upcoming NFL season. Vicis, a Seattle-based startup, has been developing a new helmet for the NFL since 2013 that will make its debut on the gridiron this upcoming season. As 25 of 32 NFL teams begin stockpiling Vicis’ helmet named the Zero1, the NFL will possibly begin a new era of safety.
The Zero1, which has a soft outer shell meant to absorb and bend upon impact. The concept of the helmet is worlds apart from the helmets we have grown accustomed to in sports, making it a first of it’s kind. Helmet’s like Schutt Sports and Riddell, which currently account for 90% of the helmets used in the NFL and NCAA, have a hard outer shell to protect the human skull. But with the rising concern of concussions and its long term affects, protection may no longer be enough.
The brain is a lot like an egg, a shell doesn’t need to be cracked in order for the yolk inside to be scrambled. That is essentially what your head feels when it receives an outstanding amount of impact; your brain gets shaken up, rattled and disoriented with the possible loss of brain function. According to the NFLPA, 244 concussions were reported last season alone, which is a lot of scrambled heads.
The founders of Vicis, which includes neurosurgeon Sam Browd, have a common goal to drastically reduce the amount of concussions players suffer each year. It has taken their team of researchers and engineers 4 years to bring the Zero1 into fruition, but the helmet recently tested amongst 33 others and finished 1st for reducing head impact severity.
It is unknown at this time which 7 out of 32 teams have not yet made the VICIS Zero1 part of their allowed player equipment, but several players have been seen sporting the helmet during OTAs. Carson Wentz of the Philadelphia Eagles and Houston Texans’ Lamar Miller were recently spotted.
Superstar cornerback Richard Sherman is also part of Vicis’ advisory team and will likely convince fellow players on the Seattle Seahawks to begin wearing the Zero1. While the race to player safety wages on between Vicis, Riddell and other equipment companies, it’s worth noting that players choose what equipment they wear come game time. The size of the Zero1 is noticeably larger versus traditional helmets, which may weigh upon players’ stance on the necessary change.
There is no denying football’s tough nature, one of the most watched sports in America is also the most brutal. While player safety and concern continues to fall further under scrutiny, rules have made it a significantly less violent game over the last few decades. Nevertheless, the jarring hits can still end a player’s season in a second’s time, hopefully Vicis’ Zero1 can be a preventive.