Will pro players take advantage of this new football helmet and it's advanced protection or will they opt for a better looking traditional helmet. Tune in this fall.
Industrial designer Bert Straus at Protective Sports Equipment developed the Gladiator as an alternative to current helmets, which use a hard polycarbonate shell, inflatable bladders that cushion impacts and hold the helmets on, and inner foam pads. He calls this a “hard-soft” design, with the hard shell the first line of defense, backed up by softer materials.
The Gladiator, a “soft-hard-soft” design, has a relatively soft urethane-foam outer covering over a polycarbonate shell holding foam inner pads. It should be lighter than current helmets, which should reduce neck strain and fatigue. (Fatigue is a known factor in head-down tackling, a poor technique that can lead to severe injuries.)
The Gladiator will also have resin-composite face guards. This should better balance the design, move the center of gravity back toward the center of the player’s head, and reduce the potentially harmful moment around the neck. The faceguard will have a quick release, important for access to the player’s airways when the head and helmet are immobilized. Current helmets must be cut or the four clamps unscrewed in similar situations. A second quick-release latch holds the chin cup in place.
This eliminates snaps and buckles which can lacerate the skin. Inside, contoured pads with a viscoelastic layer should improve fit and comfort. They are covered with a wicking material, as opposed to being crammed into PVC pockets, again for comfort, especially in colder weather. These pads still inflate for fit, but a bladder comprised of inflatable cells give the pads an inward, evenly distributed push.
Finally, Gladiator helmets will contain no metal, making them transparent to X-ray machines, CAT scanners, and MRI imagers, an obvious plus in cases of spinal or head injury. The final helmet will likely cost more than the current $198 models, but it will also contain significantly more technology.
This will not be Straus’ first time at offering the NFL a way to improve helmet safety. Sixteen years ago, he invented ProCap, a large, hard outer covering made of urethane foam, which is tough, light, resilient, and slippery. Velcro holds it tightly on the normal high-school, college, or NFL helmet. It’s about 0.6-in thick, but is thicker where impacts are more likely. Adding a soft outer covering to the hard shell and inner pads reduces the force of impacts.