CARSLSBAD, California (May 12, 2020) – LIGHT Helmets, Carlsbad, CA manufacturer of football helmets and flag football headgear that have earned the highest rating of “Five Stars” by Virginia Tech, announced that it is banning the sale of all of its products to NFL teams. With an advisory board of noted physicians, LIGHT utilizes advanced materials from the battlefield, military aviation, and auto racing to build the LIGHT LS family of helmets that weigh 3 pounds or less.
“Despite copious rule changes to reduce head injuries and the reported adoption by 99% of NFL players of “top-performing helmets”, the NFL reported that the number of concussions increased in 2019. In addition, the NFL continues to deny numerous requests from LIGHT Helmets and others, to release the “on field” data reflecting actual concussions by helmet type and number of plays and all “in-lab” test results and ranking analysis related to its annual NFL Helmet Poster. It is also concerning that several employees of the NFL’s exclusive testing lab, Biokinetics, which analyzes all competitive helmets, are listed as “inventors” on no less than five Riddell patents. LIGHT Helmets will no longer support, cooperate or participate in any activities related to the NFL until the failed testing methodology is addressed, “on-field” and “in lab” test data is released, and overt conflicts of interest are eliminated.” Justin Bert, COO, LIGHT Helmets
“With the many rules changes to reduce injuries, the vast sums of money spent on testing, grants and the associated PR, it’s remarkable that concussions actually increased in the NFL in 2019. What is more concerning is how the NFL refuses to release the number of concussions by helmet per number of plays to validate its testing. It only makes sense to validate the effectiveness of your testing with how those helmets performed on the field. We have asked for that data, and we were denied. There are many studies pertaining to whiplash, helmet weight and neck strength that have been completely ignored in the NFL testing and we feel that contributes to concussions increasing in spite of the rule changes. Why an organization with the pedigree, history, and world class athletes of the NFL would ignore such information is simply remarkable. The cost is the health and safety of the athletes and the game itself. To reduce future liability for being associated with these practices, we will step back. No one in the history of sports has accomplished so little toward solving a problem while spending so much and then promoting its failed effort.” Nicholas Esayian, CEO, LIGHT Helmets
The number of helmet manufacturers has continued to decrease with only Riddell, Schutt, Xenith and LIGHT manufacturing hard football helmets. VICIS recently became insolvent and its’ assets were absorbed by a capital partner of Schutt. LIGHT Helmets is the newest player in the space and hit the ground running with the lightest helmets on the market, which not only reduce kinetic energy and whiplash injuries (NFL and other current tests don’t address this), but reduces fatigue and improves player performance. Some competitive helmets are as much as two full pounds heavier. In spite of all of its LS1 helmets receiving a Virginia Tech Five Star Rating, the NFL has banned the advanced helmet from play due directly to a testing regimen designed to favor heavy helmets. The test results are exceedingly correlated to helmet weight, and as a result, helmets have become heavier and heavier over the years to gain favorable ratings. LIGHT believes this is the exact opposite direction helmet manufacturing should be headed.
Biocore is the NFL consultant for the development of the helmet testing methodology and actual helmet evaluations. Biocore employs Canadian based lab, Biokinetics, to execute an evolving test protocol which is then evaluated by Biocore, the NFL, NFLPA and others. At least two of Biokinetics employees are indeed listed as “Inventors” on no less than five of Riddell’s helmet patents. Riddell designs and manufactures a wide range of helmets including several top performing helmets on the test. No real-world data (concussions/helmet type/number of plays) has been released for any helmets by the NFL.
“This is a clear conflict of interest… In any other business, if there were a documented connection between an independent test lab and one of the companies’ products being evaluated for the test, it would be considered a conflict of interest.” Nicholas Esayian, CEO, LIGHT Helmets
Esayian continues, “There are helmets recommended by the NFL based on Biokinetics testing that are not even in the top twenty at Virginia Tech, our LS1 is a top ten helmet, yet the NFL has listed it as prohibited and we can’t help but take a step back when we see concussions actually increasing in 2019. The NFL test is clearly flawed.”
LIGHT Helmets has identified some clear and logical actions for the NFL to take which would remedy these issues, leverage competition in the pursuit of the best testing metrics/methodology as well as increase the number of competitors in the space to facilitate innovation. We agree with the recent rule changes and the NFL has aggressively promoted how these changes have made the game safer and reduced injury. We commend them for that. With the prompt adoption of the LIGHT recommendations, the NFL can address the increase in concussions, lack of diversity in test methodologies, and overt conflicts of interest.
- There should be multiple consultants contracted (versus one, Biocore) that are encouraged to propose their own standards for helmets as there are many different contributing factors related to these injuries and how equipment can counter the related forces and variables. The current one vendor system provides only a single algorithm and that solution is not working.
- The consultants’ methodology should be measured against how the helmets actually perform on field. That field data should be shared and be made public versus held in secrecy by the NFL. Transparency and competition in this area brings MORE ideas to the table versus the continued path down an obvious flawed approach. Refined testing protocols based on real on field data will yield the best testing protocols which will protect the game and athletes.
- NONE of the “consultants” should have any current or prior financial or strategic relationship with existing or proposed helmet companies.
- Redirect grants which have not been effective in bringing new technologies to the field to facilitate the multiple vendor testing protocol above and provide financial assistance for companies with favorable results making actual football helmets.
- The NFL explicitly states at the very bottom of the NFL Poster that “the results of this study should not be extrapolated to collegiate, high school, or youth football.” Yet the NFL aggressively promotes the standard and Poster beyond its direct intended beneficiaries consisting of NFL clubs, equipment managers and players. Due to this, the Poster is widely used by the mass market as a buying guide for all levels of play resulting in inappropriate and potentially dangerous helmet buying decisions at
Esayian summarizes, “It is truly a shame to think of what could have been done these last five years. We simply have the same helmet companies, making heavier helmets to pass a test in a lab, that omits too many factors that contribute to injuries. Last year you saw the league dictating to players that they couldn’t even wear a certain helmet when at the same time the NFL refuses to disclose the ‘on field’ concussions by helmet per play, which would demonstrate what helmets actually perform.
The NFL continues to rely on this single viewpoint, single vendor for testing which is an abject failure based on the result and refusal to publish data to confirm or deny the validity of the test. Considering the entire league’s history is based on competition, the fact it has been eliminated from the process of developing tests and in turn has reduced the competitors in the space is unacceptable. The status quo and same manufacturers that have not materially impacted the problems for decades requires a new approach.
LIGHT was founded by professional athletes, retired Navy Seals, executives, and medical professionals and we cannot participate until the NFL takes action to make fundamental change. We have to make a stand, even as a small company, toward the health and welfare of every player.”
The NFL explicitly states, “The results of this study should not be extrapolated to collegiate, high school or youth football,” yet they disseminate and promote the information to all of those institutions which endangers the athlete.
This is the sixth year in which the NFL and NFLPA have worked together to test and rank helmets, and over that time, NFL players have continued to upgrade their helmets to those which perform better at reducing head impact severity. Testing results have played an important role in players’ equipment selection process. After the rollout of the 2019 poster, approximately 25 percent of players upgraded helmets, bringing the percentage of players in the “green” or top-performing group to more than 99 percent of all players by the end of the 2019 season, as compared to just 41 percent adoption at the end of the 2017 season.
NOTE: The results of this study should not be extrapolated beyond the NFL, including to collegiate, high school or youth football.
The NFL has spent literally tens of millions of dollars related to helmet testing and technology grants but in spite of significant rule changes to change the physical game, the number of concussion in the NFL actually increased in 2019.
2019 Concussions are up…
Two Biokinetics employees are listed on five Riddell patents as inventors.
Other items of note.