By Tony Softli

Today a joint press release from the NFL and NFL Players Association (NFLPA) was announced, detailing the results of their annual study assessing the performance of football helmets.  The statement made it clear that the study was for helmets worn by NFL players.

Several former NFL players have been diagnosed with or have suffered from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).  These diagnosis can only be made post-mortem, several retired players are now reporting to NFL, NFLPA and their personal doctors on symptoms of CTE.   Will the new era helmets help stop or slow the damaging effects of CTE?  Maybe a combination of helmet studies and in game rule changes will lead in the decrease of CTE in football players.  There is one thing we do know, the helmet studies are critical to the health of all football players, at all levels in a trickle down effect.

NFL Communications; Based on the results of this study and the opinions of the biomechanical experts involved, the NFL and NFLPA will prohibit 10 helmet models from being worn by NFL players. In previous seasons, NFL players could choose any helmet as long as the helmet passed current National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) certification standards. The prohibited helmets perform poorly in laboratory testing, have been discontinued by the manufacturer, or were produced by companies no longer manufacturing football helmets. Six of these helmets are prohibited immediately. The other four may be worn by players who were using them in 2017, but may not be adopted by new players.  

The results of the laboratory tests are displayed on a poster and shared with NFL players, club equipment managers, and club medical, training and coaching staffs to help inform equipment choices. Other factors, in addition to the ranking, should be considered by players when choosing a helmet, including fit, comfort, durability, player position and the player’s medical history. View the poster here:

The goal of the study, as in prior years, was to determine which helmets best reduced head impact severity under laboratory conditions simulating concussion-causing impacts sustained by NFL players during games. The helmet laboratory testing involved 34 helmet models—a survey of helmets used by NFL teams indicates that at least 98% of players are wearing helmet models that have been tested in this study.

The study continues to measure rotational velocity and acceleration as part of a combined metric to evaluate helmets. The NFL/NFLPA evaluation is the first of its kind to adopt rotational measures in its analysis. 

The tests were conducted by an independent helmet testing laboratory, Biokinetics Inc. of Ottawa, Canada. The study formulation, experimental design and data analysis were performed by biomechanical engineering consultants selected and appointed by the NFL and NFLPA. An independent biostatistician, Dr. Timothy McMurry, Assistant Professor of Biomechanics at University of Virginia, Department of Public Health Sciences, was retained to assist in the analysis of the data. The results were then presented to the NFL Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Allen Sills, and to the NFLPA and its Medical Director, Dr. Thom Mayer.

Note: The results of this study should not be extrapolated to collegiate, high school or youth football. ​Laboratory tests developed by biomechanical engineering experts aim to help NFL players make informed equipment choices.


Data provided by NFL Communications