As part of ongoing efforts so players can make informed choices about their protective equipment, the NFL and NFLPA released their 2022 helmet laboratory testing results. The results of the tests are displayed on a poster and shared with NFL players, in addition to club medical, training, coaching and equipment staffs.
Biomechanical engineers appointed by the NFL and NFLPA ranked 47 total helmet models, including six new models never tested before by the league. Five of the six new models ranked in the "top-performing" group, continuing an unprecedented rate of improvement in helmet performance.
As a result of the effort, the NFL and NFLPA have further raised the bar for what is considered a top-performing model. Six helmets ranked last year as “top-performing” are now not recommended. For the first time, helmets that are not recommended are not available to players who did not wear those models during the 2021 season.
On the 2022 poster, the top-performing helmets in the laboratory testing are shown in a gradient of green, with darker green helmets performing better than lighter green helmets, and helmets in yellow performing worse than the green helmets with the red being the newly prohibited group.
New players and players who are changing helmets for the 2022 season must select from the top-performing helmets.
The change to prohibit players from moving into helmets in the “not recommended” group builds from the NFL-NFLPA’s 2018 joint decision to prohibit players from using helmets that performed poorly in laboratory testing. The prohibited list, which began as 10 helmets in 2018, has grown with one additional helmet added this year for a total of 16 prohibited helmets. Several additional permitted but lesser-worn models have been removed from the 2022 rankings poster and are included on a list of legacy helmets.
“NFL players are the winners here. Helmets keep getting better and they will continue to get better in the years ahead,” said Jeff Miller, NFL Executive Vice President, Player Health and Safety. “Our joint engineers have used NFL data to refine this testing program and ensure performance in the lab correlates directly to the equipment’s safety performance. By sharing this information with helmet manufacturers, we are excited to continue to foster continued innovation that allows players to have more and better choices year after year.”
Adoption of better-performing helmets has contributed to a sustained trend during each of the last four seasons (2018–21) of a 25% reduction in concussions among NFL players compared to the 2015–17 seasons. Even with the addition of an extra game during the 2021 regular season, concussions were at their lowest compared to any other regular season since 2015.
This is the eighth year the league and the NFLPA have collaborated to assess the performance of all helmets worn by NFL players. All helmets tested in 2022 met the current National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) certification standards to protect players.
The tests are conducted by an independent helmet testing laboratory – and the results are then analyzed by an independent biostatistician.