The NFL does a great job of making the game as safe as they possibly can for their players. Concussion researchers have been brought on and make this a constant battle to keep athletes from experiencing head trauma.
There are currently four helmet manufacturers that supply the league with headgear. They are Riddell and Schutt, plus newcomers Xenith and VICIS.
Ideas are essential in coming up the latest gear such as new materials. Today’s helmets are technological marvels compared to leather headgear or even the early plastic hats.
The NFL has invested quite a bit on the research of what is best for players to wear.
Originally, the first headgear was actually a device to protect a player’s ears from getting torn off while another player was reaching from behind to make the tackle. From there, crude helmets were made of leather and as time wore on, more-and-more padding was installed.
The Riddell Sporting Goods Company is credited with the invention of the first plastic helmets in 1939. However, there was a huge issue. The top of the helmet was flat and when contact was made, the thin area below the ear hole would crack and break. More innovations would later come to which a very good stable plastic helmet was the norm in 1952.
The elimination of concussions was never the reason for a player to don a football lid. It simply made each impact that less of a head-wrenching occurrence than to worry about eventual head trauma.
Now helmets are tested using 3D digital imaging which pushes the boundaries of technology. But each design has to include stability as well as comfort as a selling point.
The NFL began to improve their helmet situation by starting the Head Health Challenge around 2013 co-sponsored by GE. Six companies were awarded $10 million each to study and diagnose the understanding of mild to moderate traumatic brain injury. Part of the study would be see how the brain reacts following these types of injuries and to identify which brain areas become disconnected after such injuries occur.
Of course, the end game was to improve the safety of league players.
Invasion of the new obstacles
With new innovations and components of these helmets, the landscape has altered the exterior of the pro football helmet to say the least.
What used to be two ear holes on each side plus four air holes drilled on the topside, is now a series of specifically positioned air vents, creases, diamond-shaped ear holes, rear helmet ledge, duo chin strap snaps, extra facemask strap grommets and flex panels.
If you ever noticed the front of helmets today they have this strange “tab” just above the visor that goes up towards the top of the headgear. This is a sensor pad called “insite analytics smart helmet technology” which records and analyzes data which then give reports to reduce head impact. This tab also has some give upon impact.
But with all these new thingys on each helmet, it has caused some issues with adhering stripes and logos.
What used to be a solid side area for any type of decal and full unobstructed areas from front to back for stripes, is now a complication of dodging various indents, holes and that definitive “ledge” that runs across the back of each helmet designed as a stabilizer.
Teams have had to shift their decals back more, or up more, or down towards the ear hole. Or a combination of all of the above. Some of these stickers even appear now to be installed on a bit of an angle.
The proper placement is when a player’s head is staring straight ahead with his eyesight parallel with the ground. This makes the emblem level.
Whether some team’s have had to slightly downsize the decal circumference is not known. But “decal shifting” is a real thing now.
Most NFL clubs have adjusted their decals and stripes
Of course, this all depends on the emblem.
Some teams haven’t had much of a decal movement. These include the Chicago Bears “C”, Green Bay’s “G” oval, the fleur de lis of New Orleans, San Francisco’s oval, the New York Football Giants “NY” design, the shield of Las Vegas and of course Cleveland’s stickerless sides.
Other than that, all of these indents and added distractions have new issues to dodge.
You may notice how Carolina’s panther design is now farther back on the helmet because one chin strap grommet plus two vent holes are now in the way. Or the dolphin logo for Miami is raised towards the top more in order to miss three different vent holes. The flying buffalo with the Buffalo Bills’ logo is a nightmare now trying to miss three vent holes, one crease plus a chin strap grommet and a facemask strap. Houston’s longhorn trademark is pushed back really far in an attempt to miss the ear hole and assorted grommets plus two upper vents.
These same scenarios are continuous with the remainder of the league.
Stripes are often cut when they travel over air vents to allow air to continue to flow in-and-out. Then the striping pick up and continue on. Many decals are also trimmed within the logo to allow these air access ports to proceed with their designed function when missing whichever hole is not an option.
The main thing for a helmet is to protect the player. The equipment guy’s decal placement is his problem instead of adding brain issues for the athlete.