Aug 28, 2019

The football helmet industry is being disrupted

For months, Raiders receiver Antonio Brown has insisted that he be allowed to wear his favorite helmet, the Schutt AiR Advantage, even though it no longer meets the NFL and NFL Players Association's safety standards.

Why it matters: The Brown saga has brought attention to the world of NFL helmets, where upstart companies like VICIS are disrupting an industry long dominated by major brands like Riddell and Schutt.

The backdrop: The NFL and NFLPA have been testing helmets since 2015, but they agreed for the first time last year to ban certain models from use.

  • As a result, 11 new helmet models were introduced in April (up from 1 the past 2 seasons), and for the third straight year, VICIS' ZERO1 helmet ranked No. 1 in safety testing.

How it works: "Traditional helmets have very rigid outer shells," VICIS founder Dave Marver tells Axios. "They're like cars were back in the 50s and 60s — if you got into a collision, the car wouldn't yield."

  • "By comparison, our helmets have flexible outer shells, so they yield in a collision and slow impact forces more effectively before they can reach the head," Marver adds.
  • By the numbers: NBC Sports impact-tested a Schutt AiR Advantage and a VICIS Zero1 and determined that the brain of a player wearing the Schutt helmet would feel 37.7% more force of impact than it would in the VICIS model.

The big picture: Beyond the NFL, the helmet industry as a whole is undergoing massive change, with startups introducing new technology and tackling safety concerns with a sense of urgency that long-term incumbents — unchallenged for decades — haven't had.

  • Youth football: In the past, most youth football helmets were just adult helmets with lightweight shells. Now, VICIS and others are designing them specifically for kids. They're also making soft cap helmets for the increasingly popular sport of 7-on-7 touch football.
  • Other sports: According to Marver, VICIS will be expanding into 3 more sports over the next 6 to 9 months. And there are rumblings that major structural changes could be coming to hockey helmets, as the NHL deals with its own concussion problem.

The bottom line: "You have Riddell [and Schutt] for football, CCM and Bauer for hockey and Mizuno and Rawlings for baseball. Everyone has stayed in their own lane and, as a result, there's been very little disruption," Nick Esayian, CEO of LIGHT Helmets, tells Axios.

  • That's no longer the case, which is great news for athletes, concerned parents and pretty much everyone on this planet — well, everyone except for Antonio Brown, it would seem.

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 5,410,228 — Total deaths: 345,105 — Total recoveries — 2,169,005Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 1,643,499 — Total deaths: 97,722 — Total recoveries: 366,736 — Total tested: 14,163,915Map.
  3. World: White House announces travel restrictions on Brazil, coronavirus hotspot in Southern Hemisphere Over 100 coronavirus cases in Germany tied to single day of church services — Boris Johnson backs top aide amid reports that he broke U.K. lockdown while exhibiting symptoms.
  4. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks headed into Memorial Day weekend Report finds "little evidence" coronavirus under control in most statesHurricanes, wildfires, the flu could strain COVID-19 response
  5. Economy: White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Public employees brace for layoffs.
  6. Federal government: Trump attacks a Columbia University study that suggests earlier lockdown could have saved 36,000 American lives.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios. This graphic includes "probable deaths" that New York City began reporting on April 14.

The CDC is warning of potentially "aggressive rodent behavior" amid a rise in reports of rat activity in several areas, as the animals search further for food while Americans stay home more during the coronavirus pandemic.

By the numbers: More than 97,700 people have died from COVID-19 and over 1.6 million have tested positive in the U.S. Over 366,700 Americans have recovered and more than 14.1 million tests have been conducted.

World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

Japan's economy minister outlined plans on Monday to end the nationwide state of emergency as the number of new novel coronavirus cases continues to decline to fewer than 50 a day, per Bloomberg. Japan has reported 16,550 cases and 820 deaths.

By the numbers: Over 5.4 million people have tested positive for the virus as of Monday, and more than 2.1 million have recovered. The U.S. has reported the most cases in the world (over 1.6 million from 13.7 million tests). The U.K. is reporting over 36,800 deaths from the coronavirus — the most fatalities outside the U.S.