Stacy Rost, CBS Seattle


SEATTLE (CBS) — Seattle startup company Vicis aims to reduce the number of concussions in football through their development of a new helmet, rooted in breakthrough technology.

There were 228 diagnosed concussions during the 2013 NFL preseason and regular season. An increasing amount of research has tied concussions and repeated, mild- to moderate-brain trauma to long-term, neurodegenerative diseases like chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). A report released in 2015 found that of the 91 brains of former NFL players stained for CTE, 87 tested positive (an astounding 96 percent of all players tested).

“If you compare the innovation in the automotive industry with innovation in football helmets, we’re way behind,” says design director Rich Curren. “They’re basically like cars from the seventies. The hard shell, padding on the inside… good luck.”

While they acknowledge that no helmet can completely eliminate concussions, Vicis founders Dave Marver, Sam Browd and Per Reinhall have developed a new helmet that absorbs shock (the 1 ton of force an NFL hit can deliver) differently than a traditional football helmet. The Vicis founders say they aren’t looking at helmet development like a sporting goods company, but rather, as a technology company. Browd is a pediatric neurosurgeon and the medical director of the Seattle Children’s Sports Concussion program; Reinhall is a professor and Department Chair of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Washington.

According to Vicis’ video, their helmet has an impact-absorbing layer that consists of columns that move “omnidirectionally” to respond to impact from any angle. The video (above) shows a side-by-side comparison of Vicis’ helmet and a traditional helmet hitting a hard, solid surface. The Vicis helmet moves and bends at the moment of impact (almost like rubber) whereas the traditional helmet bounces hard, rattling the wearer.

“If you compare the innovation in the automotive industry with innovation in football helmets, we’re way behind.”

You can watch the test at the 4:00 minute mark.

The video also features Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin, and Hall of Famers Roger Staubach and Tony Dorsett.

“If this concussion problem is not addressed,” says Reinhall. “I think the game is in danger.”

According to Bloomberg, Vicis’ helmet prototype, Zero1, will retail for $1,500.

“Football and sports in general are really important to America, and to American society,” says Marver.

“Unfortunately that great, formative experience is at risk because of safety concerns. Real safety concerns.

“The existing helmet companies aren’t innovating fast enough. They’re innovation has been incremental. This is not an incremental problem — this is a major public health problem. We need to solve this issue of sports-related concussion.”

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