YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WJW) – The NFL kicked off its helmet challenge with a symposium in Youngstown Thursday.
The NFL Helmet Challenge is offering $3 million in grants and award money to the developer of a new, safer helmet that outperforms current helmets.
“We think that there’s even more room for growth. We’ve seen some evolutionary change in helmets over the last few years, which is great, but we’re looking for revolutionary change,” said NFL Executive Vice President for Health and Safety Innovation Jeff Miller.
About 300 people from around the world, from helmet makers to innovators and experts, have gathered for a series of panels and presentations Thursday and Friday focused on helmet design and innovation, along with concussion prevention.
“We anticipate we’re going to see some prototypes like you haven’t seen before. We anticipate that helmets on field are going to look different than they do today. We anticipate there may be people coming up with position-specific helmets,” Miller said.
Emily Kennedy, co-founder and CEO of Cleveland-based Hedgemon, is among the innovators at the symposium vying for the top prize.
“There’ll never be another opportunity to be in the same room as all these different sorts of people,” Kennedy said.
Hedgemon has developed a helmet liner inspired by hedgehog quills and Kennedy said the company is hoping to team up with a helmet manufacturer through the challenge to develop a full helmet prototype.
“We’re hoping, over the course of these couple of days, we’ll develop collaborations with people who can help us with development of the full system,” Kennedy said.
Helmet manufacturers Riddell, Xenith and Vicis were at the symposium.
“Riddell welcomes the effort to collaborate with other people in the space, interesting new ideas for ways we can make our helmets better and make the game of football better and safer,” said Riddell Senior Vice President of Research and Product Development Thad Ide.
Challenge participants must submit helmet prototypes for lab testing against impacts by May 2021.
“The next generation of helmets that mitigate even more of these forces that cause injury will make players safer,” Miller said.
He said the NFL chose to host the symposium in Youngstown because of its proximity to additive manufacturers and 3D printing.