Value of a helmet: NFL offers $3mn for next design of players’ headgear

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The National Football League has sanctioned $3 million for developing the next helmet for its players.The NFL, 32-team professional football league in the USA, has announced the NFL Helmet Challenge, an innovation competition aimed to stimulate the development by experts, innovators and manufacturers of a new helmet for NFL players. The new product must outperform, based on laboratory testing, all helmet models currently worn by NFL players.

The $3 million challenge offers $2 million in grant funding to support the development of a helmet prototype and a $1 million as award for the winner, states an NFL Press release.

A symposium will be held from November 13 to 15 in Youngstown, Ohio, to kick off the challenge. Over three days, the symposium will bring together experts from different industries to share information and work collaboratively on innovative helmet ideas.

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The challenge will culminate in May 2021 with the applicants submitting helmet prototypes for testing in laboratory conditions that represent potentially concussive impacts in the NFL. Applicants will compete for up to a $1 million award.

“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,” said Jeff Miller, the NFL’s Executive Vice President for Health and Safety Innovation.

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“Innovation can be catalysed 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.”

This challenge is the next phase in the league’s Engineering Roadmap, which aims to improve the understanding of football biomechanics and to create incentives for businesses, entrepreneurs, innovators and helmet manufacturers to develop new protective equipment. Between the kick-off symposium in November and the submission of helmets for final evaluation in May 2021, applicants will have access to a range of resources to support the development of their helmet prototype, including up to $2 million in HeadHealthTECH Challenge grant funding. Other available resources will include those developed through the Engineering Roadmap, such as NFL video review data and finite element models of modern football helmets. To encourage broad participation, the league is also offering grant funding to certain requesting university students and faculty to offset travel costs associated with attending the symposium.

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The league will team up with Youngstown-based America Makes, a manufacturing innovation institute specializing in additive manufacturing and 3D printing, to host the November kick-off symposium. The symposium agenda will include background on the current state of the science around helmets and certain concussions in the NFL, information on the challenge and available resources and breakout sessions to stimulate networking, team building and the creation of successful grant applications.

To request an invitation to attend, applicants should visit: Registration for the symposium is open until October 2

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