The Helmet That Could Save Football

A medical technology company may have the solution to concussion prevention.

Although this week brought us Opening Day in Major League Baseball, it’s never a bad time to think about America’s largest revenue-producing sport – football.

More specifically, one of the most prominent challenges facing the $12-billion National Football League is concussion prevention. Although a renewed focus on proper tackling techniques (thank you Coach Braem) will help, the primary focus remains on developing better helmets.

Here’s where Seattle-based Vicis enters the playing field. Careful to depict themselves as a medical technology company instead of a sporting goods manufacturer, Vicis has reportedly spent over $20 million dollars developing a helmet that works sort of like a car bumper-bed mattress combo.

Dubbed the Zero1, it uses four separate layers to slow the forces of impact.

The top layer absorbs impact by deforming the part of the helmet taking the hit – kind of like a car bumper.

The next layer uses a bunch of columned materials that bend and buckle somewhat like smaller, more reactive mattress springs that help distribute and mitigate the impact.

The third layer, or Arch Shell, replaces the inflatable bladder of traditional helmets with a customized system that matches head measurements with one of three shells.

The Form Liner makes up the final layer, working with the Arch Shell to conform to a player’s head. The ZERO1 offers 60 different sizing combinations in helping to disburse force accordingly. Its’ design also provides a wider field of view in aiding reaction times.

Former NFL players working with Vicis include Tony Dorsett, Jerry Rice and Roger Staubach.

Moving forward, Vicis plans to have the ZERO1 assessed by Virginia Tech’s STAR rating system for concussion protection, which has essentially become the industry standard.

Even as the company awaits these results, it has taken orders and is planning to ship helmets before the 2017 season.

Excess forehead pressure and chinstraps unbuckling were issues during testing, which Vicis claims to have addressed, but the bigger issue is one of price: the ZERO1 comes in at $1,500/helmet. This compares to $400 for a top-of-the line high school helmet.

Vicis acknowledges that the price is beyond high school and youth players and that while they are targeting pro and college teams, the company is also exploring partnerships and fundraising options to make their helmet more widely available.