Can a new helmet protect players and save football?

- As we learn more about concussions and CTE, we continue to have the conversation about football and how safe it is. But a new technology company could be changing that discussion for the better. Its football helmet has been deemed the safest by the NFL Players Association testing. And it is just the beginning.

"We wanted to do what we could to innovate in this space and come out with something different, better and special that could better protect all those young athletes," VICIS co-founder Dave Marver said.

Nearly four years ago, Marver and his co-founders set out to make a difference. Their goal: protect the athlete and elevate the game.

"We're not traditional sporting-goods people. I come from a medical technology background and my co-founders are a pediatric neurosurgeon and a professor of mechanical engineering," Marver said. "So, we went about things quite differently."

That "lack of playing experience," so to speak, gave VICIS a competitive edge.

"We went to the best of the best -- the elite players and team staff -- and they helped guide us in the development of this product," Marver said.

One of those elite players is Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin. The NFC Pro Bowler is a member of the VICIS Coalition.

I saw this as an opportunity, as an opportunity not only to get into a company that's doing something drastically different in our arena but also to be able to get myself in a safer piece of equipment," Baldwin said.

But first, he needed to help VICIS understand the players' point of view.

"The main thing that I wanted to relay to them is 'Don't make something drastically different that players are not going to be willing to test,'" Baldwin said.

After a 3-year, $20 million research-and-development effort both in the lab and on the field, VICIS released the Zero1, a helmet that significantly reduces impact forces.

"It's a very different helmet than today's helmets. Those have a hard outer shell and ours has a multi-layered design and the helmet actually deforms," Marver said. "It yields like a car bumper would upon impact. And in doing so, it slows collision forces."

The difference is noticeable.

"Typically there's a jarring effect with traditional helmets. You just can't get around it," Baldwin said. "It's the impact, the violence of the sport. But with this helmet, there's kind of a shock-absorption effect to it."

"The columns... they sort of bend and buckle and they can also move laterally," Marver said. "And then there's also an inner shell here to prevent against skull fracture. And then finally this liner can be custom-fitted to a particular athlete."

And that design can make this helmet a game-changer on the field, both physically and mentally.

"Yeah, there's times when you think about a certain collision that you're about to endure or a particular angle you might take against a different player. You think about those things," Baldwin said. "And now you have that confidence. I have that confidence with a piece of technology that's I know is safer for me. To me, it's going to save the game."

This football season, you will see players from about 25 NFL teams wearing the Zero1. Some top college programs will also use it. The engineers are currently developing helmets that will be optimal for high school and youth players. VICIS will eventually bring this technology to other sports, such as lacrosse and hockey.

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