One of the companies to receive a grant from the NFL toward exploring ways to make football safer, and possibly lowering the concussion rate, was Seattle startup Vicis, in partnership with the University of Washington.
The company has used that money to continue developing its flexible, crumpling football helmet, the Zero1, which it thinks could lower the amount of concussions and brain injuries sustained by football players each year, as reported by Wired.
The Zero1 flexible football helmet boasts a multi-layered technology bolstered by a lode shell, core layer, arch shell and form liner — all meant to personally fit around each player's head. The core layer consists of hundreds of flexible columns that act as shock absorbers, according to Wired, and the overall system borrows from the automotive technology, where cars are made to crumple upon impact.
"What we're really trying to do is take this common sense approach to it," co-founder of Vicis and pediatric neurosurgeon Sam Browd told Wired. "The more force reduction you can bring, the more likely you are to reduce the risk of concussion."
Browd added, comparing the helmet toward automotive safety technology: "It's a very challenging engineering problem. Instead of trying to slow a car down over many feet or yards, we're trying to slow these impacts down over 2.5 inches."
Vicis CEO Dave Marver also told Wired that, upon impact, the Zero1 flexible football helmet's columns shift from an I shape to a C before snapping back in seconds.
"Newton's second law. Force equals mass times acceleration," Marver said. "The mass of a player's not going to change, but if you can slow acceleration — the 'a' in the equation — you're reducing force."
According to Wired, Vicis will test its helmet against Virginia Tech's STAR rating.