The NFL announced the results of the NFL Helmet Challenge, a $3 million competition designed to accelerate development of helmet performance and safety for NFL players. After two years of work, 13 teams with experts in biomechanical engineering, materials science, additive manufacturing, and current helmet manufacturers submitted their new helmet prototypes for laboratory testing and evaluation by a judging panel. Of the 13 teams, three – Impressio, Kollide and Xenith – will receive $1.55 million in grant funding to advance their innovative designs and technologies to help their products get on the field. The $1.55 million in grant funding is in addition to $1.37 million granted last year to help teams create their helmet prototypes.
The judging panel represented expertise in engineering, biomechanics, neurology, sports business, and football, which included NFL Legends Orlando Pace and Chad Pennington and Denver Broncos equipment manager Chris Valenti.
The judges selected awardees based on the helmet's ability to reduce the severity of impacts, novelty and promise of the technology, and likelihood that the helmet will be used in the NFL. While the Helmet Challenge judging panel offered grant funding to only three teams, four other prototypes – from VICIS, Cardiff University, Nama Development, and Lionhead – achieved scores that would have ranked them among or above the top-performing helmets on the 2021 NFL-NFLPA Helmet Poster.
"We wanted to provide a player's perspective concerning the performance of the helmet," said Pennington. "A player wants a great performing helmet that also has a level of comfort and will be effective on the field. Factors such as weight which addresses neck fatigue and productive facemasks which can greatly affect vision must be taken into consideration as well."
NFL Helmet Challenge submissions achieved up to a 13% improvement above the top-performing helmet currently worn in the NFL, based on the laboratory testing the NFL and NFLPA use to test and rank helmets each year.
"The NFL Helmet Challenge is about revolutionary, not just evolutionary improvement," said Jeff Miller, NFL executive vice president of communications, public affairs and policy, overseeing the NFL's health and safety work. "The NFL set out to challenge the marketplace and accelerate development of new technologies. We're proud to support the awardees and advance player health."
The following three teams were awarded grant funding to continue to develop their products, as described by the teams below:
"Being a former offensive lineman and understanding that players are bigger, faster, and stronger in today's game, 10 years from now I'd love to see the game played safer with much better technology," said Hall of Fame offensive tackle Pace. "I'm excited to be involved in that progress through this challenge."
The NFL and Football Research, Inc. previously awarded $1.37 million in August 2020 to support the development of applicants' helmet prototypes for submission to the NFL Helmet Challenge. All three awardees selected by the Helmet Challenge judging panel to receive grant funding were also awarded grant funding as part of the HeadHealthTECH Challenge in 2020.
To learn more and watch the Helmet Challenge video, visit www.nfl.com/helmetchallenge.