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A company is close to making a new football helmet specifically designed to reduce the risk and severity of concussions and traumatic brain injury (TBI). The ZERO1 helmet, developed by Seattle-based VICIS, is the result of millions of dollars of investment and several years of research involving current and former NFL players and coaches, neurosurgeons, and engineers. The helmet, which is expected to be tested by NCAA and NFL teams this spring and become available commercially for the 2016 football season, is seen by the company as a major advance toward reducing brain injuries on the field.
TBI is a serious problem in football and other sports. A number of high-profile reports have covered the long-term issue of TBI and a related condition, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), because of how they have affected the lives of many NFL players. But these head injury problems are not exclusive to football players or to adults.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) rates TBI as a contributing factor in 30% of all injury deaths in the United States each year, accounting for more than a quarter million hospitalizations and over 2.2 million emergency room visits. The majority of these are accident- or assault-related, but sports injuries, especially in younger Americans, have been on the rise in recent years. In the previous decade, the rate of sports-related TBI in those under age 20 rose by nearly 60% and accounted for nearly 250,000 emergency room visits in 2009.
TBI can have both immediate and lifelong impacts. It’s a problem that, fortunately, is being taken much more seriously today than in the past.
The manufacturer of the ZERO1 helmet views it as a technology breakthrough. Helmet design, the company says, has not advanced significantly since the 1970s. Taking cues from how car safety features, such as crumple zones and airbags, work to protect vehicle occupants, the designers sought to produce a helmet which provides maximum protection to its occupant: a player’s brain.
Citing concussion as “a major public health problem” and noting that “any concussion is a concussion too many,” VICIS used extensive testing and computer modeling to develop a helmet that makes use of a special impact-absorbing layer to respond to blows from any angle in any location. Unlike typical helmets, which offer limited sizes, the ZERO1 will be initially introduced with twelve different sizing options. This better fit means that the helmet protects the player’s head with uniform pressure, which is one of the techniques used to reduce acceleration from impact.
The founders of the company feel passionately about both football and safety. “The game is in danger,” one says in a VICIS promotional video. The ZERO1 is their contribution to keeping football alive and well—and safe–in the future.
The initial cost of the ZERO1 is expected to be around $1500. While that’s nearly four times the cost of today’s top-of-the-line helmets, VICIS reports that the college and professional teams it is working with have not balked at the price tag. The company is hoping to bring the cost of the helmet down in the future and is already planning to release a more affordable model for high school and younger athletes in 2017.
Through its Heads Up program, the CDC offers a number of free resources to youth sports organizations and parents that explain the dangers of head injuries, how to prevent them, and what actions to take when one occurs. If there is a youth athlete in your family, you should take advantage of this information to understand the risks and how to respond.
It is good news that technology like the ZERO1 will soon be available to athletes, but until it and similar protections become widely available, the risk of brain injury to youth athletes will continue to be a serious concern.
If you or a loved one have been injured as a result of a concussion or brain injury, you are urged to contact the Indianapolis Personal Injury Attorneys of Wilson Kehoe Winingham. The lawyers at WKW can help you get the compensation you deserve. Call 317.920.6400 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.