NFL Seeks Safer Helmet with $3 Million Offer

The National Football League (NFL) is to launch a competition aimed at finding a new design for helmets that can provide greater player safety.

The NFL Helmet Challenge was announced on the day it was revealed that American football’s governing body had reached an deal with Westport Insurance Corp following a seven year battle over the settlement reached between the NFL and retired players who suffered cognitive and neurological problems through damage sustained during their playing careers.

The settlement was in excess of $1 billion but the NFL’s insurer panel had refuted liability saying the risk of concussion and long term damage had not been declared at the time of the policies coming into force.

The helmet challenge aims to stimulate the development by experts, innovators and helmet manufacturers of a new helmet for NFL players that outperforms, based on laboratory testing, all helmet models currently worn by NFL players.

Up to $3 million will be available in the challenge, including $2 million in grant funding to support the development of a helmet prototype and a $1 million award.

The NFL will launch the challenge at a symposium in November in Youngstown, Ohio, to kick off the challenge. It will bring together experts from different industries to share information and work collaboratively on innovative helmet ideas.

The challenge will culminate in May 2021 with the applicants submitting helmet prototypes for testing in laboratory conditions that represent potentially concussive impacts in the NFL.

“Helmet technology is advancing at an impressive rate. Yet, we believe that even more is possible. The NFL Helmet Challenge represents an unprecedented combination of financing, research, data and engineering expertise in an effort to create a more protective helmet,” said Jeff Miller, the NFL’s Executive Vice President for Health and Safety Innovation. “Innovation can be catalysed if we engage with creative and talented people from across disciplines to attack this challenge together. In collaboration with the NFL Players Association, we are making changes on and off the field in an effort to improve protection for every player. Trying to ensure that players wear the best possible helmet is a substantial part of that commitment.”

The NFL has prioritised helmet safety amid mounting concerns about health risks associated with concussions and other brain-related injuries. The league recorded 214 concussions during the 2018 season, its lowest total since 2014.