Few would argue that football isn't an extremely dangerous sport. As the lifelong medical consequences of frequent concussions and billion-dollar lawsuits continue to come to the fore, the pressure for the NFL to make the sport safer is increasing. The Zero1 helmet may be a step in the right direction.
The high-tech helmet, unveiled Monday by Seattle-based startup Vicis, was inspired by elements of automobile design. Like the crumple zones built into modern cars, the shell of the helmet is designed to buckle upon impact in order to prevent additional jarring to an athlete’s head and neck. A second layer just beneath the helmet’s shell is made of hundreds of flexible columns that bend and compress, acting as shock absorbers.
Translating car design to helmet design was no easy feat, Vicis cofounder Sam Browd told Wired. “It’s a very challenging engineering problem,” he explained. “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.”
The company has already subjected the helmets to extensive testing, but there’s still more to do before they can hit the field. Nonetheless, Browd is optimistic. “If numbers end up panning out, we think we’re going to significantly improve the safety of the sport,” he told Stinson.
Watch the video above for a closer look at the Zero1.
Header image from YouTube // VicisPro, Inc.