NFL Evolution  


Riddell gaining attention with new Speedflex, updated technology


Study after study in recent years have said there is no football helmet that can stop concussions. However, Riddell is getting a lot of media attention for its new Speedflex helmet and some have said it will cut down on head injuries.

Business Insider via SB Nation examined the Speeflex helmet, which it says could be the helmet that stems the concussion crisis.

The helmet is designed to disperse energy, reducing the risk of trauma, while the InSite is intended to alert coaches when a player suffers a significant hit to the head, or multiple hits that combine to pose a risk.

The Arkansas Razorbacks were the first to announce deployment of the new technologies, and several other schools are currently trying them out.

What makes the helmet so special? Besides introducing a new chinstrap system and a redesigned interior padding, the Speedflex added InSite, an electronic alert system based on the HIT system monitoring greater impact hits.

The helmet has been debuted to a limited number of colleges for 2014. It won't be officially released until 2015. And it has yet to be tested in the respected Virginia Tech helmet ratings.

However, Stefan Duma, who led the Virginia Tech-Wake Forest study on helmet design released in January, said the InSite system is not appropriate for their group to study.

"We are focused on systems that provide the linear and rotational acceleration traces," he said. "To this end, InSight is not designed for that, whereas the HIT System is."

Like InSite, the HIT System is a network of sensors inside helmets, which alerts sideline staff to the number of hits -- and potentially serious hits -- a player takes. A study conducted by Duma and others, published by the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine in January 2005, showed the merits of detecting acceleration traces, in addition to just a number of hits and severity of impact.

Virginia Tech has used the HIT System for 11 years, and Brown, Dartmouth, North Carolina, and Oklahoma also use it. But it isn't more widespread due to costs, which are around $50,000 to $60,000, according to a January report by's Jon Solomon. InSite could be significantly less expensive; it costs $150 per player plus a $200 alert monitor, which would come out to just under $13,000 for an 85-player roster.

Duma told Solomon another factor could play into its limited use:

"I think some people maybe don't want to know what the data says," Duma said. "I think it might raise some concerns if they're not looking at it objectively. They may just not want to know. I'm sympathetic to that. We're very fortunate we have a very progressive head coach at Virginia Tech in Frank Beamer."

The Oregonian also looked at the Speedflex and array of colleges that already have signed up to use them while Husker Corner looked at how the helmets could help Nebraska.

What does this have to do with the Huskers? Nebraska football equipment upgrades almost instantaneously when new technology like the Speedflex comes out.

Not only that, but the University of Nebrask's Center for Brain, Biology and Behavior (a.k.a. CB3) is working on a special project that may reduce concussion damage even further.

The idea is for a suspect player to slip on a simple cap and have a diagnosis within mere minutes about whether concussion symptoms show up. Thanks to the combination of the Speedflex helmet and the CB3's research, a new era of concussion prevention may be ushered in.

-- Bill Bradley, contributing editor



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