Expect to hear more thuds
instead of those helmet-to-helmet pops this season. The
Zero1 has a soft exterior
that borrows from engineering principles used in
modern-day motor vehicles,
including crumple zones,
which absorb energy and
slow impact forces.
CHANGING THE FIT—AND THE PRICE
Vicis talked to players, equipment managers, medical
staf—anyone who might handle a helmet. Trainers pointed
to the importance of quickly removing a helmet in the event
of injury. So the jaw pads were designed to slide out easily.
Vicis scrapped the standard one-size-fts-all approach,
instead creating three helmet sizes, as well as ofering
interior pads in a range of thicknesses to create a better ft.
These safer, snugger helmets are priced accordingly: $1,500
for the Zero1 versus $250 to $450 for other models currently
used in the NFL.
SHOCK ABSORBERS FOR THE SKULL
The helmet’s structure is specifcally designed to
mitigate the hits that cause the head to rotate around
its center axis, known as rotational force, which science
suggests plays a big factor in concussions. Browd’s
initial sketch featured movable, tectonic-like plates,
but that proved impractical. Instead, the design evolved
to include 500-plus columns that bend on impact,
allowing the helmet to absorb energy more efectively.
“You have only about two inches between the exterior of
the shell and the head,” Reinhall says. “Imagine running
at a wall headfrst with a helmet on and coming to a
standstill from full speed. It really matters what you
do with those two inches.”
• CALLING AN AUDIBLE: A LAST-MINU TE T WEAK
Former NFL star defensive lineman Tony Siragusa (left) loved how the helmet felt,
but noticed a problem when he took his three-point stance. “I have little alligator
arms,” he says. “When I put my hand on the ground, my head has to be able to look
up.” Siragusa felt that the back of the helmet was getting stuck on his shoulder pads.
“Athletes don’t want to be restricted in any way or they’ll freak out,” he says. To
compensate, Vicis trimmed about a quarter inch of the back bottom of the helmet.
THE NEW LOOK
“I envisioned something very futuristic, kind of high
tech and sleek,” Marver says of the design. “Sort of
like a very impressive sports car.” NFL players, on
the other hand, favored a more conventional design.
Result: A traditional-looking helmet with cleaner lines
yet noticeable contours—what Vicis calls a modern
classic. The bottom of the helmet is open, so a player
can peek in and see the columns inside. “When people
turn it over, they’re like, ‘Ohhh,’ ” says Fischer. “They
can look right at what makes it diferent. That has a
dramatic impact.” Just not on their skulls.
• BRAIN DAMAGE
A normal brain (top) and
one afected by CTE.
Market share enjoyed
99 of the brains of deceased NFL players in a recent study were found to have CTE.
THE HARD SHELL
The hard layer, necessary
to protect the skull,
has been placed inside
Marver says, “we turned
the helmet inside out.”