Despite the fact that football continues to enjoy immense popularity around the world (estimates have a fan base of 400 million or more), the sport remains under constant scrutiny for its approach – or lack thereof – to concussions. In light of this continued criticism, the NFL finally recognized the negative impact of concussions on its billion-dollar business and chose to begin awarding research grants aimed at finding a solution. One such company that took NFL greenbacks and ran away is vicisa Seattle-based company that has just launched an innovative new helmet that it hopes will have the ability to solve one of football’s biggest problems.
Dubbed the Zero1, Vicis’ concussion solution is a flexible multi-layer helmet that is uniquely adept at decreasing rotational and linear impact forces. Specifically, the helmet was built to use four distinct layers that work in perfect harmony with each other. Its top layer, the Lode Shell, absorbs shocks by locally deforming a specific part of the helmet. Imagine it reacting like a bumper in a fender bender. Although the technology has been around in the automotive industry for decades, Vicis is the first company to apply this strategy to a football helmet.
The next layer of the Zero1 – the core layer – is where Vicis (a self-proclaimed “technology company”) expertly blends engineering, medicine and sports. Utilizing a highly engineered columnar formation, the core layer essentially bends and deforms in all directions to mitigate linear and rotational forces. Beneath this is the Arch Shell, the interior of the helmet specifically designed to perfectly fit a player’s aspect ratio (i.e. the relationship between length and width of the head) . The Form Liner is the final layer, designed exclusively to work in unison with the Arch Shell to conform to the topography of the player’s head and distribute pressure across the head accordingly.
With each layer of the Zero1 establishing an incredibly balanced base, Vicis’ Axis Fit System is the glue that holds it all together. After spending a lot of time understanding the different shapes and sizes of an athlete’s head, the company came up with an innovative, anatomically correct approach to sizing their helmet. Abandoning the traditional convention of measuring head circumference only, Vicis uses the length and width of a person’s head to achieve the ultimate fit. Plain and simple, a better fit means better protection.
“We don’t have the typical helmet, with a hard shell and a bit of padding on the inside,” says Dave Marver, CEO and Founder of Vicis, in a video on company website. “We can reduce the acceleration, we can make the difference and that’s because we achieved it in such a profoundly different way.”
Vicis’ video, with the help of current (Seattle Seahawk Doug Baldwin) and former football players (Hall of Famers Tony Dorsett and Roger Staubach), posits that even one concussion is one too many concussions and that injuries to head threaten football. Acknowledging that concussions continue to be a ‘common occurrence’ in football, Vicis CTO and founder Per Reinhall adds that if ‘this concussion issue is not addressed’ he believes ‘the game is in danger’ .
In the future, Vicis plans to put its Zero1 helmet to the ultimate test; Virginia Tech’s STAR rating system for concussion protection. Essentially, the system assigns helmets a five-star rating based on their ability to absorb force impacts, as well as their ability to protect against head injuries. As Virginia Tech states on its websiteeven a five-star rating does not mean that the helmet is completely concussion proof, and athletes who play contact sports are always at risk of sustaining head injuries.
As the issue of concussions continues to be the elephant in the room (or stadium), it’s a welcome sight to see so many companies interested in making a difference. Whether it’s a revolutionary mouth guard designed to gauge the amount of impact absorbed from a big hit or a force-attenuating helmet like the Vicis Zero1, it’s clear that safety is utmost importance in the world of sport today. While it’s obvious that this kind of attention to security should have existed decades ago, it’s certainly refreshing to see it gain momentum today.