High-tech helmets designed to lower risk of
concussions make NFL debut
The Washington Post, September 11, 2017
Byline: Rick Maese
There was a noteworthy football debut that took place during the NFL's opening week. It could be seen
as Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith led his team to an upset over New England, as Seattle
quarterback Russell Wilson sat in the pocket against Green Bay and as Dallas running back Alfred
Morris took a handoff from Dak Prescott on Sunday night.
All three players were wearing a new high-tech helmet, available for the first time this season, that
league officials hope provides a preview of how technology and innovation could help make the game
Smith, Wilson and Morris were among 70 or so players who wore the VICIS Zero1 helmet, the product
of a Seattle start-up that might look like the traditional football helmet from afar but has a completely
different design just beneath its exterior shell.
The helmet incorporates engineering principles more commonly seen in the automotive field. The
outer shell is softer and more pliable, made from flexible thermoplastic. Beneath it is a layer of more
than 500 small columns, each measuring an inch or so long, which absorb force and also twist and
move laterally, lessening the impact of rotational acceleration, a major concussion culprit.
"Think of the current helmets like old cars, all made of steel," said Dave Marver, the VICIS CEO. "They
get in a collision, and they're rigid. The passenger continues to move forward. Today's cars, though,
have bumpers that crumple, that slow acceleration before they reach the passenger compartment."
The VICIS Zero1 was the top-performing helmet in the NFL's Helmet Laboratory Testing Performance
Results, faring better than 32 other counterparts when tested for head impact severity. Though not yet
available for youth or high school players, it's being used this season for the first time on NFL and
Professional players have the option of wearing the helmet of their choice from a list of those approved
by the NFL. There's a poster that hangs in every NFL facility showing that VICIS finished first in the