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The NFL Makes Another Move To Enhance Player Safety For 2023

Aside from making money, the other top priority for the NFL is player safety. For the upcoming season, a new helmet design will be available specifically for quarterbacks. It won’t be mandatory for QBs to wear, but it has been tested to be the safest option for that position group. Let’s explore why the new helmet is necessary and what it will look like.

The NFL’s Growing Concussion Problem

One of the major reasons for the new helmet design was to provide better protection against head injuries. In 2022, there were 149 diagnosed concussions over the 271 regular season games, which was an increase of 18% over the previous season.

A more improved concussion protocol has made doctors and sideline officials more cautious, contributing to the rise in statistics. The enhanced procedures were as a result of the league’s response to the series of injuries suffered by Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa just this past season. In a Week Three game, Miami team doctors mis-diagnosed an injury and allowed him back in the game after a concussion. The following week, Tagovailoa’s head hit the ground during a sack and was transported to the local hospital. He missed several weeks but suffered another concussion in Week 16. While Tua’ situation was not the reason for adding a specific quarterback helmet, it comes at the perfect time.

The long-awaited helmet designed specifically to protect QB heads when they hit the ground is available, promising better impact mitigation than a regular helmet. Will players wear it? We'll see. Only a handful of players wore linemen-specific helmets that were available in 2022. — Judy Battista (@judybattista) April 13, 2023

What Will The New Helmet Do?

VICIS created the new helmet with improved features especially during helmet-to-ground impacts. It contains an engineered column structure internally to help mitigate impacts from major hits. The outside of the helmet looks the same. Quarterbacks are likely to hit their head against the turf during a sack, hit, or tackle, so this should give them better protection.

Lab testing and simulations have shown the new QB helmet did a 7% better job at reducing the severity of impact. Overall, the quarterback specific option ranked as the third most effective helmet, which was just behind the offensive-line and defensive-line specific helmets.

Players are usually slower to adopt the newer equipment options. The league admitted that just a handful of players wore the new lineman specific designs last season. They expect the numbers to go up with more data and education on the different options. Even though the equipment may seem new, the NFL said that it takes several years of development and lab testing before it is approved to be used in the field of play.

Next Steps

Player safety is always going to be a concern in a dangerous sport like football. New and improved procedures as well as better equipment is a step in the right direction for the league. Certain injuries like concussion can make for life-long impacts for the player. Hopefully the league continues to invest in better helmet designs for more of the position groups to continue to keep players safe.

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