NFL helmet testing: 5 models deemed the best performers ever, 6 others banned

Photo of author


Helmet options for NFL players next season will include five newly developed models that outperform all existing helmets in laboratory testing simulating on-field impacts, according to testing results compiled by the league and the NFL Players Association.

Officials said those five high-performance models were among 12 new helmet models available to players for the 2024 season that were evaluated. Eight of those 12 models are position-specific helmets developed for quarterbacks or offensive or defensive linemen.

Some of the best performing helmet models will enable any player to avoid the NFL requirement to wear a protective guardian cap over their helmet during practice.

The latest round of annual testing by the NFL and NFLPA will require about 10 percent of players across the league to change their preferred helmet model next year. Those players wear helmets that were moved to the “prohibited” or “not recommended” categories based on testing results, as helmet technology and testing performance have improved.

“We are most excited about the pace of innovation among helmets, the level of protection they offer our players in general and then the level of position specificity that manufacturers are offering for the first time,” said NFL executive vice president Jeff Miller. ” Chair of Communications, Public Affairs and Policy.

The league and union oversee testing conducted by biomechanical experts appointed jointly with Biocore LLC. The test results are depicted in posters displayed in the teams’ locker rooms.

Ann Bailey Good, a senior engineer at Biocor, said, “We have seen about 10 times the rate of innovation in the helmet area than before the release of these posters.”

Lab testing evaluates the helmet’s ability to absorb impacts that replicate those that would cause a collision on the playing field, based on a study of approximately 2,000 such hits. Officials said five of the new helmet models performed better in testing than any other helmet worn in the league.

This year, for the first time, four different helmet posters will be displayed for players, reflecting a spread of position-specific helmets. There will be one poster for the overall helmet-testing results and one poster each for the testing results for quarterbacks, offensive linemen and defensive linemen.

“For condition-specific posters, we’re trying to replicate the specific effects of the condition they’re seeing,” Good said. “It should really complement the education of those individual positions so they can understand how the helmets are performing specifically for the impacts they’re going to sustain on the field.”

The 2024 season will be the third in which position-specific helmets will be available to NFL players. Nine quarterbacks and nearly 20 linemen wore such models last season. Officials said they expect that number to grow as a greater variety of condition-specific models become available.

“There’s an increased personalization aspect to it that includes situation-specific features,” said Thad Ide, Riddell’s executive vice president of research and product development. “I think the train has already started, and I think it will continue.”

A new helmet model made by Riddell tops overall test results. That new model also has position-specific versions for quarterbacks and offensive and defensive linemen. It utilizes the manufacturer’s personalization technology – also used in previous Riddell helmets – which involves scans of the individual player’s head.

“It’s great to see it on the top of the poster, because I think it will help drive adoption at the league level, which will certainly help drive adoption in college and benefit high-schoolers and younger players,” Ide he said. “This will help drive the latest and best performing helmets onto the field at all levels of play.”

A new helmet model manufactured by Zenith has topped the testing results of both offensive and defensive linemen. A new model from Visis is the top-rated model in quarterback-specific testing.

The next position-specific helmet to be developed, based on the planned testing, could be a model or models for wide receivers and defensive backs, officials said.

The NFL will waive the requirement to wear the Guardian Cap during practice for players who choose one of six specified new helmet models.

“there are [six] Helmets that performed so well in laboratory testing that they will outperform even conventionally performing helmets and guardian caps,” Miller said.

The NFL and NFLPA have placed six other helmet models in the prohibited category. Players will no longer be able to wear those helmets in the next season. Officials said less than 1 percent of players leaguewide wore those helmet models last season.

Overall, about 10 percent of players wore the helmet model last season that is now either banned or not recommended. Players who wore a helmet model last season that is now in the “not recommended” category have one year to replace it; Any player who did not wear a helmet of that model in the previous season may not begin wearing it during the 2024 season.

“Our goal in the offseason … is to share as much information as we can with clubs and players so they can make choices that best suit their specific situation and their health,” Miller said.

NFL players suffered 219 concussions last season, according to the league’s injury statistics announced in February. That was roughly the same as the 2022 season’s 213, but it was down sharply from the 2015 to 2017 seasons, when the annual injury count reached 281.

Leave a comment