This 3D-Scanned Football Helmet Makes The Game Safer For Players
In response to growing concerns, pioneering football sports tech firm Riddell has recently debuted its latest 3D-scanned football helmet
Sports technology has come a long way since basketball players first donned high top converse and footballs were anything but synthetic. And while we’re all infatuated with the players on the courts and fields, we rarely take into consideration all of the advancements in shoes, balls, gear, turfs, refereeing and other elements which allow our favorite athletes to ascend to the upper echelon of their game.
Consider the football helmet—perhaps the most critical protection piece for NFL players. From 2015 to 2016, rates of concussions were down only modestly, to 244 total concussions last year. How can we circumvent these regularly occurring injuries in such a contact-heavy sport? What’s missing in previous helmet editions that could bolster a decrease in these alarming concussion figures? In response to these questions, pioneering football sports tech firm Riddell has recently debuted its latest helmet technology dubbed Precision Fit, a process for creating bespoke helmets via state-of-the-art 3D-scanning techniques.
By building a custom-fitted helmet liner system that match the varying sizes, shapes and asymmetries of individual players, the hope is to reduce the concussion rate among top athletes. PSFK got a chance to sit down with Riddell’s senior vice president, research & product development Thad Ide to discuss how this new technology is set to transform safety in the NFL and NCAA divisions.
“The technique to creating precision fit lends itself to a whole team. It takes less than five minutes to create a full head scan. You can go to a pro team and take a morning and six weeks later their helmets are all delivered,” expresses Ide in regards to the question of scalability.
“What makes it truly fulfilling though is when everyone gets a look of awe where they feel a helmet that matches every lump and bump and asymmetry of your head. Everyone’s body is like a fingerprint, and the eye-opening nature of the way the helmet feels on one’s head is terrific to watch.”
Of course, unlike a traditional bulk order for footballing equipment, Precision Fit requires that a representative actually shows up at your door and spends some time getting accurate readings of each player’s head. Thad outlined the entire process as follows:
“One of Riddell’s employees shows up at your door with a kind of ‘scuba hood’ that the player wears to pat down their hair. Once on, we a use visible light scanner and associated tablet pc to collect a scan of the head surface. At time of scanning we have a person put on a stock football helmet that has face cards which we use to position the helmet exactly how it should be worn for play. That data is then imported into engineering software (CAD package) and manipulated to create the interior surface of the helmet.”
The interior lining system is a cast made of polyurethane materials, which makes the padding line up perfectly with the mold of the helmet. From the outside, the shell is as tough as ever, making for a durable yet pocket-like fitting headgear. While Riddell’s team works with players to customize a fit that feels right for them, the company refuses to compromise on certain protective parameters, chiefly the minimum certified surface which refers to the optimized thickness (or thinness) of the interior padding.
As a company looking to optimize player performance and protection, Riddell is setting its sights not only on new ways of fortifying heads but on advancing the sport as a whole. With a rich history of curious tinkering within the football sphere of influence, dating back to 1922 when the founder John T. Riddell created the world’s first removable cleat, the firm’s innovation roadmap for 2017 is quite advanced with respect to how other sports companies are tackling their technological progression.
“To understand the company’s creative DNA, you have to go back to Riddell’s investment in research (SRS – a monitoring system of every significant incidence of head impact across entire leagues). This underlying research has fundamentally informed every headwear design in the past, and has allowed futurists to bring more security to the game we all love,” says Ide.
“Fast forward to Precision Fit and now you’re looking at the convergence of all of these technologies—we’ll soon be able to account for all of these variables like skill level, age, position, etc., in the helmets that we make. It’s not going to be long before impact sensing technology is expected in football helmets. Monitoring and reporting technology in real time that when combined with Precision Fit will further help us optimize future iterations of the technology towards a person’s playing style or expected impact exposure of the course of a season. That’s the ultimate plan here—fully individualized, smart helmets.”
Currently being rolled out over the course of this year in a limited release, a select quantity of teams will be able to don the latest edition Precision Fit depending on their level of investment. With Speedflex, the company’s hot new varsity and NFL football helmet—what Ide describes as the ‘most successful helmet launch he’s ever gotten to experience during his career—the company is poised to further saturate fields everywhere with its impressive and ever-secure line of helmets. As one of the most underrepresented yet more critical components of the game, Riddell’s ingenuity in the space helps empower your favorite athletes to perform better and play longer.
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