About everyone has now seen the holes in the football helmet belonging to Kansas City Chief quarterback Patrick Mahomes. The top of the helmet was shattered after a hit from a tackler. Equipment officials said the below zero temperatures lent a hand in the incident, but at no time was Mahomes at danger.
Once he got to the sidelines, staff replaced his helmet with another. But that is where they ran into another problem. The second helmet was so cold it was hard to stretch onto Mahomes’ head.
But it was the questions that surrounded the original incident that had lots of people scratching their heads.
The helmet’s manufacturer, Certor Sports, which makes the VICIS ZERO2 helmet, said the headgear served its intended purpose despite cracking.
“While outer shell damage is not ideal, the ZERO2 helmet did its job of protecting Patrick Mahomes during a head-to-head impact during unprecedented cold temperatures,” VICIS said in a statement released on X. “The exclusive multi-layer technology employed in the VICIS ZERO2 helmet model utilizes a deformable outer shell, RFLX impact absorption layer, followed by a stiff inner shell. This design approach is similar to the crumple zone of modern cars, effectively absorbing and dispersing impact forces at the point of contact.
“Extreme conditions like those experienced in Saturday evening’s NFL playoff game are bound to test the limits of even the highest performing products.’
The Virginia Tech Helmet Lab has studied many of the helmets used in the NFL, college and high school. Barry Miller is the director of outreach and business development for the Tech Lab. He said Tuesday that it is unusual for a football helmet to crack a shell.
“But we’ve had occurrences here in the lab and we generally test at ambient temperature,” he said.
National media has reached out to the VT group after the Mahomes incident. Again, Miller said it is unusual for a helmet shell to crack, but if you asked a football equipment room manager you may find a different answer as they see tons of helmets with plenty of impacts.
Football helmets need to meet a NOCSAE standard in order to be legally sold, but they typically don’t use a cold weather test.
The VICIS ZERO2 uses a proprietary multilayer technology that creates a “deformable outer shell,” the company said, and that is wrapped around a stiffer inner shell. The design is similar to that of car bumpers, which might appear to be inexpensive plastic at first glance but are in fact engineered to absorb and disperse energy at the point of impact.
The ZERO2 line, which includes specific models for linemen and quarterbacks, held the top five spots in testing this season by the NFL and NFLPA. The helmets also ranked highly in independent evaluations at Virginia Tech.
The ZERO2 is the number three ranked helmet on Tech’s testing list.
VICIS was founded in 2017 and quickly became a venture-capital darling, raising more than $85 million from current and former NFL players that included Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson and Jerry Rice. And with a focus on innovation, the company produced helmets that ranked No. 1 in NFL and NFLPA testing from 2017-19.
But the company struggled to compete with established manufacturers Riddell and Schutt, and that took a toll on its finances. Co-founder and CEO Dave Marver resigned in November 2019, the company’s board of directors voted to place it in receivership the following month, and more than 100 employees were laid off in an attempt to avoid bankruptcy.
The Associated Press reports Innovatus Capital Partners bought the assets of VICIS in 2020 and it was incorporated into Certor Sports, which also produces the Schutt brand of helmets and TUCCI, which produces wood and metal baseball bats.
VICIS has continued to innovate when it comes to helmet design. A few years ago, the company relaunched the ZERO2 platform of helmets that Mahomes was wearing, and introduced the TRENCH, a helmet designed specifically for linemen.
“VICIS helmets are extensively tested in high-impact conditions across a range of temperatures,” the company said. “We are committed to continuing our development of the safest helmets in football and working with our partners in the NFL and other organizations to constantly gain knowledge and continuously advance protective technology.”