CANFIELD, Ohio -- Their credo is simple: “Protecting players, reducing the potential of concussions and creating a more positive future for young athletes.”
Shockstrip, Inc. is a relatively new company founded by Dr. Steven Novicky with the sole purpose of making the game of football safer for athletes.
“I noticed a problem going on in my practice,” said Dr. Novicky. “Every year around fall I would have athletes coming in with headaches, neck pain, hearing and visual disturbances.”
That was the beginning of Dr. Novicky’s decade-long crusade to create better head protection for players.
After multiple prototypes, he developed something called “Shockstrips” at his office in Canfield, Ohio.
“The material is proprietary, meaning it’s a secret and was formulated by a PhD. in chemistry in 1970 with the primary function of absorption distribution of impact and sound deadening,” said Dr. Novicky.
When six strips of the material are adhered with a strong adhesive to the helmet, Dr. Novicky says it reduces injury.
And he has the studies to support his claims.
Shockstrips scored well on several independent impact and drop tests.
“And with this on the helmet it shows a 35% decrease in the probability of a micro-traumatic brain injury or concussion,” said Dr. Novicky.
During the 2011 football season, 110 players in the Mahoning Valley conference tested the strips.
Dr. Novicky says all of the players and their parents gave the strips glowing reviews.
He added that all of the players experienced a reduction in injuries and pain and none suffered a concussion.
“My head feels great, I have no headaches, no neck problems, anything,” said Struthers' middle linebacker Braxton Koup.
Koup, 16, whose nickname is “Animal,” is considered a high-risk player because he has sustained two previous concussions.
“I got really dizzy. I threw up my first time,” said the high school sophomore, who is already looking at possibly playing at Penn State after he graduates.
“I love to hit,” said Koup, “I’d love to play college ball and if I do I’d love to have Shockstrips on my helmet.”
But not everyone is supportive of Shockstrips.
Dr. Novicky says he had experienced resistance from helmet makers and the National Federation of State High School Associations.
In the past, some schools also received letters stating that any warranties will be null and void if the strips are on the helmets when they are returned for reconditioning.
Last May, one of the largest helmet manufacturers, Riddell, which is located in NE Ohio, sent this statement to Fox 8 News reporter Suzanne Stratford:
“At Riddell we evaluate helmets submitted for warranty claims on a case-by-case basis. These and similar accessories are unauthorized alterations to Riddell helmets, and we don’t recommend their use.”
But Thursday, Aug. 23, that all changed.
The NFHS ruled, “The use of the Shockstrip product is not a violation of NFHS football rules.”
Dr. Novicky was elated, and said, “Huge! It’s huge because they’re allowing parents to make a choice if they want to put external enhancements on the helmet and Shockstrips is the first one that’s been approved.”
The Ohio High School Athletic Association okayed their usage on the field and Dr. Novicky says Riddell also has now agreed not to penalize teams who use the strips on their helmets.
“Riddell has come along in the last week and said they will recondition the helmets every two years for a $20 up charge and they’ll give you a brand new shell,” said Dr. Novicky.
Fox 8 reached out to Riddell Friday but had not heard back from the company as of 11 p.m.
Shockstrips come in different colors and weigh 12 ounces.
The cost is about $50 to $75 per set, but Dr. Novicky offers a significant discount for teams.
He says he has been trying to connect with helmet makers and reach some sort of agreement because he feels the Shockstrips can help players not only feel better, but also extend their careers.
In fact, after last season's brain-rattling hit on Cleveland Browns quarterback Colt McCoy during a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, many professional players have contacted Dr. Novicky.
“We have a pro team interested and we have three BCS teams. But we have to keep it all under wraps at this point," said Novicky.
The success is reason to celebrate, but Dr. Novicky says his primary goal is still safety.
“Not to be dragging kids off the field on Friday nights,” said Dr. Novicky, “that’s what it’s about. It's about the football players.”