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NFL enters next era of helmet safety

NFL

In a recent announcement the NFL and NFLPA said their quarterback-specific helmet will be available for the first time for the 2023 season.

According to the NFL, half of all QB concussions occur when their helmets hit the ground. This helmet will reduce the severity of those specific impacts. The VICIS ZERO2 MATRIX QB performed 7 percent better in quarterback-specific testing than the most popular helmet worn by quarterbacks last season.

“Helmets customized to the unique experiences of a position group promote player safety,” said Jeff Miller, NFL executive vice president overseeing Player Health and Safety. “This is the next evolution in a rapidly advancing market for improved helmets. We’re proud to share the data necessary to design and build better equipment.”

Helmets designed for the experiences of specific position groups is the latest innovation in the advancement of helmet technology. Position-specific helmet designs take into account the unique locations and speeds of head impacts for each position group to offer players more customized protection.

The league shares a wide range of game impact data with helmet manufacturers to inform their enhanced designs, including data from mouth guard sensors and advanced video footage. Position-specific testing will be extended to additional positions in the coming years.

The addition of a QB-specific helmet follows the introduction in the 2021 season of an offensive and defensive linemen-specific helmet. Two OL- and DL-specific helmets now top the 2023 NFL-NFLPA helmet rankings.

The NFL and NFLPA release of the results of their annual helmet laboratory testing demonstrate continued helmet safety innovation. Jointly appointed biomechanical engineers ranked 50 helmet models, including three new models. Two of the new models ranked in the ‘Top-Performing’ group, continuing a rate of improvement in helmet performance that has increased by nine times since before the start of the helmet testing program in 2015.

Rate of innovation is evidenced by helmets’ rankings over time: Seven helmets that were in the Top-Performing group in 2020 are now Newly-Prohibited for the season ahead.

The helmet rankings roster ranks and groups helmets according to their laboratory performance into three categories: Top-Performing (green); Not Recommended (yellow); and Newly-Prohibited (red).

More than 99 percent of players wore Top-Performing helmets last season. As part of an NFL-NFLPA policy, Not Recommended and Newly-Prohibited helmets may only be worn by players who wore those helmets during the 2022 NFL season. No players will be permitted to wear the Newly-Prohibited models starting in the 2024 season.

Evidence of helmet innovation extends beyond the 2023 rankings released recently, as demonstrated by the three awardees of the NFL Helmet Challenge, a $3 million competition designed to accelerate helmet performance and safety for NFL players.

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Sports Editor at Chicago Crusader Newspaper

Joseph Phillips is the Sports Editor for the Chicago Crusader Newspaper. He is a Chicago native, who has been a sports writer for over 17 years. He also hosts the SC Media News and Sports Network Q&A radio show on WHPK 88.5 FM Chicago.

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