The NFL has a litany of PR problems on their hands right now with their handling of the Colin Kaepernick situation, dwindling TV ratings, and a general lack of quality, but the most worrisome aspect of football these days is player safety.
More specifically, head trauma has become a hot button issue for the league as former players continue to detail struggles they have in their post-football life from constant blows to the head.
The degenerative brain condition CTE was found in 111 of 112 brains of former NFL players during a study at Boston University. After committing suicide last year in his prison cell, former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was found to have the most advanced case of CTE ever for a person his age.
To combat the issue, the NFL has instituted a series of rule changes that outlaw hits to the head or hits to a defenseless player, as well as installing “independent concussion specialists” on every team’s sideline, but as we’ve seen these steps have had mixed results.
Take, for instance, the case of Tom Savage, the Houston Texans quarterback who was clearly concussed on a play and even seized up following a hit by San Francisco linebacker Elvis Dumervil.
Savage was examined by the concussion expert but still allowed to go back in the game before coming out for the rest of the game.
Now, Vicis, a helmet company based in Seattle, is trying to keep NFL players safer by redesigning football helmets altogether. As Inc. noted last year, football helmets haven’t really changed since the 1960s, despite athletes getting stronger and faster:
“Legacy companies like Riddell and Schutt and upstarts like Vicis and SG have been racing to design helmets that are safer than those already on the market. Numerous studies over the past decade have revealed the devastating long-term impact that football can have on the human brain. While football helmets have improved over the years, their design hasn’t been significantly altered since the 1960s, when full face masks were added. A helmet with some give to it would be a major change. The league has been using helmets with plastic outer shells since the 1940s.”
Vicis only released their first design last year, but their helmet is already worn by some of the NFL’s biggest players. From Inc.:
“Vicis’s design finished first among 33 helmets in a safety test conducted by the NFL in early 2017. In the NFL, where players are free to choose their own helmets, about 60 players have worn the Zero1 in games this year, including the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson, the Chiefs’ Alex Smith, and the Texans’ Jadeveon Clowney.”
Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin has invested in the company and Vicis’ ‘coalition’ of spokespeople is made up of current players Baldwin and Alex Smith, as well as former players Jerry Rice, Mark Schlereth, Tim Brown, Roger Staubach, and Tony Dorsett.
Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz’s mother Lisa is also a spokesperson for the company, despite the fact that Ertz himself doesn’t wear the helmet.
Lisa Ertz, who was drawn to the cause after her other son Shane was forced to stop playing the sport after suffering a concussion in high school, told Inc.,
“To me, it’s about saving the sport. It’s such a unifier, and it means so many things to so many people. But it needs to be safer.”
It will be interesting to see if Vicis becomes more widely used amongst players. If it is indeed the safest helmet on the market, there’s no reason that all players (including Ertz) don’t throw on the radical design.