January 07, 2016 - Aaron Wilson
NFL players, Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma wearing new Schutt helmets
Safety is a constant issue in football and having the best possible equipment is of paramount concern to football players regardless of the level of football they play. From young kids to the guys in the NFL, safety and prevention of injuries takes center stage. As the NFL playoffs are about to get underway, several players are making the switch to a pair of new helmets they hope will assist them in the ongoing battle against concussions and head injuries. New England Patriots' running backs Steven Jackson and Brandon Bolden, along with teammate, linebacker Dont’a Hightower, have chosen to wear the Vengeance PRO – one of two new helmets manufactured by Schutt Sports. From the Green Bay Packers, 3-time Pro Bowler B.J. Raji has also made the switch to the PRO, as has Minnesota Vikings defensive end, Brian Robison. NFL players aren't the only players making the switch to Schutt's new helmets. In the College Football Playoffs, players from Alabama, Clemson and Oklahoma began wearing the helmets. The Vengeance PRO, along with the new Vengeance Z10, features a sleeker, more streamlined helmet shell that’s significantly lighter than other helmets. Having a lighter helmet significantly improves the fit of the helmet. One innovative advancement of the Z10 is the Helmet Stabilizer System – a fitting system that helps cradle the head inside the helmet and improve its performance. “The Helmet Stabilizer System in the Vengeance Z10 increases the number of contact points between the helmet and the player’s head,” said Cortney Warmouth, Vice President of Product Development for Schutt. Warmouth. “The increased contact area creates a better fitting helmet that cradles, or stabilizes, the head inside the helmet. Which, in turn, creates a helmet that’s more comfortable and has better performance.” The two new Schutt helmets also incorporate a re-designed line of titanium facemasks. The new facemask designs extend the protection further down the side of the helmet. Schutt believes that offensive and defensive linemen will especially like the new facemask designs. When Schutt solicited input from linemen the area of concern mentioned most often in relation to facemasks was to close gaps in the facemask and keep fingers and hands out of their face. The titanium construction is also up to 60% lighter than traditional facemasks currently being used in the NFL and college. “These players and these teams know that any advantage, no matter how small, gives them the edge over their competition,” said Glenn Beckmann, Director of Marketing Communications for Schutt Sports. “And that’s never more important than it is right now, during this important time of the season. A lighter and better fitting helmet gives them a boost in performance and playing confidence.” Both the Vengeance PRO and Z10 feature patented Schutt technology called TPU Cushioning: a series of thermoplastic urethane cylinders encased in impact-absorbing cushions. Schutt uses TPU in all of its varsity helmets, as well as many of its youth helmets. According to Schutt, independent helmet testing labs have shown TPU Cushioning does a better job of absorbing impact under varied conditions when compared to other helmets. Based in Litchfield, Illinois, a town 60 miles northeast of St. Louis, Schutt has built up its market share in the NFL over the last several years. As of this season, more than 50% of the skill position players in the league now wear Schutt helmets. In 2011, researchers at Virginia Tech University developed a football helmet testing and rating system, called the STAR Rating System. They continue to test the newest helmets and 4 of the top 5 helmets in the latest STAR rankings are made by Schutt, including the top two spots. In helmet testing done by the NFL recently, Schutt helmets were ranked 1, 3 and 5. While Schutt and Virginia Tech are both quick to say that there is no way to completely eliminate concussions or head injuries from football, and that there’s no such thing as a concussion proof helmet, these helmet ratings are an additional way for players, coaches and parents to evaluate a helmet’s performance. Follow me on Twitter: @AaronWilson_NFL Aaron Wilson covers the Texans for The Houston Chronicle.