NFL launches $3 million helmet challenge to find new prototype that outperforms current models

In effort to improve player safety and better protect athletes from head impacts, the NFL have announced a US $3 million helmet challenge to promote innovation of a new improved prototype.

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The national football league (NFL) have announced the NFL Helmet Challenge, which aims to encourage development by experts, innovators and helmet manufactures of a new helmet to be worn by NFL players. Up to US $3 million will be available, including a $2 million grant for the development of the helmet prototype, with applicants will be competing for a $1 million award. 

The challenge is due to commence 13 November at the NFL Helmet Challenge Symposium (OH, USA), which will bring together experts from different industries and promote collaboration on innovative helmet ideas. 

The league will be partnering up with America Makes (OH, USA) – a manufacturing institute specialized in 3D printing and additive manufacturing – to host the symposium. The program of the symposium will include: 

  • Current state of science around helmets
  • Concussions in the NFL
  • Information on the challenge and available resources 
  • Networking session
  • Team building session
  •  Information on how to create a successful grant application

Applicants will submit their prototypes in May 2021 to be tested 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," commented Jeff Miller, the NFL's Executive Vice President for Health and Safety Innovation (NY, USA).

As well as the $2 million HeadHealth TECH challenge grant, other resources available to applicants include NFL video review data and finite element models of modern football helmets. This challenge acts as the next phase in the league’s engineering roadmap that aims to develop new protective equipment and improve understanding of the biomechanics of head injuries. 

"Innovation can be catalyzed 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," explained Miller. 

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Kimberley Ndungu

Editor, Concussion Zone

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