A collaboration between the University of Washington and helmet manufacturer VICIS has led to the development of the Zero1, a football helmet designed to absorb impact more effectively than designs currently in use. Featuring an outer shell that yields upon impact like a car bumper, the Zero1 helmet is expected to be available to select NFL and NCAA football teams this spring and be worn in the 2016-17 season.
The Zero1 creators designed the helmet with four different layers – the outer LODE Shell that gives way on impact then returns to its original form before the next hit; the Core Layer that slows the forces from both straightforward hits or glancing blows; and the ARCH Shell and FORM Liner that add both additional protection and a more customized fit that conforms the helmet to the head of the individual wearer.
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Further customization is available through what the creators are calling the AXIS Fit System, that incorporates head length and breadth measurements rather than just head circumference.
Each Zero1 helmet will also feature a quick-release mechanism to allow for easier removal during an emergency without the use of special tools, and more aerodynamic facemasks to improve visibility.
VICIS says it took a team of neurosurgeons and engineers two years to develop the ZERO1, with input from equipment managers and athletic trainers incorporated into its design. Each helmet is expected to cost US$1,500 initially, with the price to be less for younger athletes as the helmet design becomes more refined.
In 2014, Riddell introduced the SpeedFlex helmet that featured a front panel that gave upon impact, along with a more flexible facemask designed to take some of the force of an impact, and an optional sensing system that could wirelessly notify sideline staff of a significant hit to a player's head.
The video below shows the VICIS Zero1 helmet in more detail.