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NFL, NFLPA Approve Position-Specific Helmets for OL, DL; Features Safety Bumpers

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistApril 20, 2021

Detail view of NFL shield logo on the wall of the stadium during the third quarter of an NFL wild-card playoff football game between the Buffalo Bills and the Indianapolis Colts, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021, in Orchard Park, N.Y. Buffalo won the game 27-24. (AP Photo/Brett Carlsen)
Brett Carlsen/Associated Press

The NFL and NFLPA announced Tuesday they had approved the first-ever position-specific helmet, the VICIS ZERO2-R TRENCH, ahead of the 2021 season. 

The helmet is designed for offensive and defensive linemen, with Kevin Seifert of ESPN noting the equipment features "bumpers on their front and upper sides, where NFL engineering studies showed are a common point of contact for linemen who absorb concussion-causing contact, according to Dr. Ann Good, a senior engineer at BioCore and a consultant to the NFL."

NFL executive vice president overseeing player health and safety Jeff Miller released the following statement:

"Players have more and better choices than ever before. Continued improvement in helmet design has raised the bar for top performing helmet models. The introduction of the first position-specific helmet is a promising development within the helmet industry to further customize helmets for the unique safety requirements of each position. The NFL and NFLPA have long supported critical innovation in helmet design through our research and innovation challenges and by providing necessary data to manufacturers, and we're excited for that effort to yield tangible results."

Seifter noted that other position-specific helmets, namely those for quarterbacks, are on the horizon:

And several helmets previously allowed are now prohibited:

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The helmet testing and ranking system is part of the NFL's initiative to reduce head injuries, one of the primary threats to the game of football. The NFL's senior vice president of health and safety innovation, Jennifer Langton, said concussion rates from 2018 to 2020 are 25 percent lower than the numbers seen in the 2015 to 2017 seasons, per Seifert.

"With these results, we were able to demonstrate [to players] that the use of a lab test in ranking helmets and prohibiting helmets were relevant to [players'] game experience," NFLPA engineering consultant Kristy Arbogast added. "We showed that by moving up the [ranking], players could really take an active role in their safety."