NFL approves helmet to reduce QB concussions

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The first quarterback-specific helmet designed to help reduce concussions has been approved for use by the NFL and NFLPA, The Associated Press has learned.

The helmet, manufactured by Vicis, reduces severity of helmet-to-ground impacts, which league data says account for approximately half of quarterback concussions, including the one suffered by Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa last season when his head slammed violently against the turf during a Thursday night game against Cincinnati.

“We’ve now analyzed with our engineers and with the players’ association more than a thousand concussions on field, we have a pretty good database of how these injuries occur,” NFL executive Jeff Miller told the AP about the helmet-to-ground impacts. “This helmet performs better in laboratory testing than any helmets we have ever seen for those sorts of impacts.”

The helmet performed 7% better than the most popular helmet worn by quarterbacks last season, the league said in a memo sent to team executives Thursday.

Jason Neubauer, an executive for Vicis, said the company began designing its Zero2 Matrix QB helmet in early 2022.

“The unique thing is that it has a deformal outer shell, which means when you take an impact in any location on that helmet, it will deform or basically dent in that location to absorb the impact,” Neubauer said. “What that means for us, as designers or engineers, as we’re looking to optimize it for different types of impacts, we’re able to change unique locations to try to optimize the impact mitigation in any one area.”

It’s unknown how many quarterbacks will switch to the new QB-specific helmet. The league and the players’ union share information from the helmet studies with teams so players can make informed decisions on helmet choice. The only other position-specific helmet already approved is the Vicis Zero2-R Trench for offensive and defensive linemen.

The memo sent to teams also includes the results of the 2023 helmet laboratory testing study. Miller told the AP seven helmets the league highly recommended in 2020 have now been downgraded to prohibited as a result of new testing.

“That’s a great sign,” Miller said. “Hopefully we can continue to stimulate that either with position-specific helmets designed for each position group or for a general all-purpose helmet to be able to say to players: ‘Work with us, be willing to change helmets, because better and better products are coming online every year.'”

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