By Peter Schwartz
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As concussions continue to be a big topic of conversation at all levels of football, companies that make equipment continue to look for ways to make the game safer for players, specifically when it comes to the helmet.
And a new helmet that has hit the market is drawing plenty of attention around the football world.
Riddell, the world's leading helmet manufacturer, has introduced SpeedFlex, a new helmet that reduces impact-force transfer to the player by selectively adding flexibility to key helmet components.
"We're excited to formally introduce the SpeedFlex as the next milestone in Riddell's rich history of football innovations," said Riddell President Dan Arment. "With this helmet we sought to improve player protection while delivering tangible benefits to the athlete."
The helmet became available this summer and is being used by many players in the NFL and in college football. SpeedFlex features a unique design that came about after Riddell looked at more than 2 million points of data captured from its head-impact monitoring technologies.
The result was a helmet loaded with features designed to improve protection and sightlines, while also offering a new ratchet-style chinstrap attachment system.
"We're confident these new features will quickly become design standards for Riddell, and raise the bar for football helmet performance and protective technologies across the industry," said Arment.
The SpeedFlex helmet features a bold new look with a cool, aggressive streamlined shell design. The stainless steel facemask offers better field vision for the player while the padding materials inside the helmet help to absorb impact energy while retaining position and purpose over extended durations of play.
So far, the reaction from around the football world has been very positive.
"We're hearing a lot of great feedback around SpeedFlex," said Erin Griffin, senior communications manager for Riddell. "There are many positive comments on how the helmet fits and how comfortable it is."
In addition to the scientific data that it used, Riddell also took advantage of its many years of research, on-field testing and feedback from players. The company, which was founded in 1929, takes into consideration a player's desire to look and feel confident when he takes the field.
When you mix the data along with research and player feedback, you get SpeedFlex.
"We base our helmet innovations and advancements on science and research," said Thad Ide, Riddell's senior vice president of research and product development. "We don't simply stop at the information we find in the research field. We incorporate direct feedback from the playing field so athletes will have the best possible experience with the product."
While the SpeedFlex is already being used at the top levels of the sport, it should make its way into high schools and youth football in the near future. Given that the helmet is so technologically advanced, it would make sense for as many players as possible to have access to the SpeedFlex.
"We encourage players of all levels to use SpeedFlex," said Griffin. "We anticipate (that) many high school and youth programs will place orders when the helmet becomes available in greater quantity in the coming weeks -- in a full range of sizes and facemask options."
The bottom line with equipment, in any sport, is to make sure that the athlete is protected as well as possible. As the father of a youth football player, I'd like to see my son using the best technology.
Riddell used its "InSite Impact Response System" in developing SpeedFlex. It's the first helmet built from the ground up thanks to the company's latest head-impact monitoring technology.
Going forward, Riddell continues to have its eyes on the future when it comes to protective equipment innovations. The company has a commitment to coming up with technologies, based on both performance and protection, that provide players with the results that they're looking for.
In its health and safety report released to the Associated Press on Wednesday, the NFL said that concussions decreased during 2013 by 13 percent from the previous year, and that the number of concussions from helmet-to-helmet contact was down 23 percent.
That's good news, and so is a technological advancement like SpeedFlex.
There may never be a way to completely rid football of concussions, but the SpeedFlex helmet from Riddell certainly goes a long way in making the game as safe as possible.
For more information on SpeedFlex, visit www.Riddell.com/SpeedFlex.
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