NFL impact data have driven customization, 9x rate of helmet improvement
Helmets considered top-performing only three years ago now prohibited due to development of safer models
NEW YORK, April 13, 2023 – As part of the release of its annual helmet testing results, the NFL and NFLPA announced today a quarterback-specific helmet will be available for the first time for the 2023 season. 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% better in quarterback-specific testing than the most popular helmet worn by quarterbacks last season.
Helmets designed for the experiences of specific position groups is the latest innovation in the advance 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 mouthguard 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.
“Helmets customized to the unique experiences of a position group promotes 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.”
The NFL and NFLPA’s release today 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 poster 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% 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 today, 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.
The awardees – Kollide, Xenith, and Impressio – submitted helmet prototypes that demonstrate it is possible to both exceed performance of existing commercially available helmets while also decreasing helmet weight. Their submissions reflect unique designs, including the use of advanced, energy-absorbing materials such as liquid-crystal elastomer (LCE) material, 3D printed mesh, and engineered energy control structures to redirect and optimize absorption of the forces from on-field contacts. The helmets drew recognition from the NFL Head Health Tech Helmet Challenge Committee, which includes experts in biomechanics and sports equipment safety, including engineers, scientists, and researchers.
The three awardees will continue work to further develop their prototypes in an effort to increase the field-readiness of their respective helmet models.