NFL, NFLPA approve first position-specific helmet for linemen

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The NFL and players’ union have approved the first position-specific helmet for use, a model designed for offensive and defensive linemen.

The VICIS ZERO2-R TRENCH ranked No. 2 among all helmets tested by league and NFLPA engineers, according to the jointly-issued 2021 helmet laboratory testing performance results.

The helmet uses “a soft deformable shell specifically designed to better protect on impacts that occur play after play,” the Vicis website says. This includes bumpers on the front and upper sides to guard against concussion-causing contact, NFL consultant Dr. Ann Good told ESPN.

The league and union have been ranking helmets based on safety data since 2015, and they have graduated to not recommending and eventually banning models that aren’t safe. The rankings are based on the ability of a helmet to reduce head impact.

The primary goal is to reduce reported player concussion totals, which peaked at 281 for the 2017 season (preseason and regular season combined). The total dropped to 214 in 2018, rose slightly to 224 in 2019, and hasn’t been reported yet for 2020.

The 2021 helmet safety ratings, distributed to teams Tuesday, added three models to the “newly prohibited” list and placed six in the “not recommended” category. The tests are conducted by an independent helmet testing laboratory, Biokinetics Inc. of Ottawa, Canada.

As of March 1, the NFL has paid out a total of $765 million to more than 1,100 retired players in the settlement of a concussion lawsuit that alleged the league had concealed knowledge of the dangers of repeated blows to the head.

Measures like this collaboration between the league and union on safer helmets are a necessary step toward trying to make a violent sport as safe as possible, such as it is.

The only concussion number reported so far for 2020, for example, was the 30 reported player concussions during preseason practices last summer. That number was identical to the 2019 total, though both were significant reductions from the 45 total in both 2017 and 2018.