Aspen football entertains idea of getting new state-of-the-art helmets for 2018 | AspenTimes.com

Aspen football entertains idea of getting new state-of-the-art helmets for 2018

Aspen High School football coach Karson Pike is at the top of the list when it comes to wanting to keep his players safe on the field. So when he was approached about possibly adopting the next-generation Vicis ZERO1 helmets, it seemed like a no-brainer.

"Everything I see makes sense. I'm no engineer or neuroscientist, but I'll certainly believe one when he comes up with all this statistical data," Pike said. "Safety has always got to be No. 1 when we are talking football and the pressure it is under, even though the stats will show you every sport should be. But anytime a new technology comes forward, we've got to take a serious look at it, especially considering the brain and the head."

Vicis, a relatively young Seattle-based company loosely affiliated with the University of Washington, made a presentation on Oct. 25 at the high school about its cutting-edge helmets. Among the presenters was Sam Browd, an attending neurosurgeon at Seattle Children's Hospital who co-founded Vicis, and Steve Urbaniak, who spent years as the equipment manager for the NFL's San Francisco 49ers.

Their trip to Aspen was largely the doing of Ashley Ward, the parent of an AHS athlete who hopes to have the helmets on the football players by next fall.

"It's the starting point," Ward said. "They offered to come into town and I knew there needed to be a presentation so people understood."

Among the pressure the sport of football faces is the health of its athletes, especially when it comes to concussions and head trauma. However, little progress has been made over the decades when it comes to preventative equipment, which is where Vicis decided to step in.

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"It's very hard for industries to acknowledge that the path they've been on for decades, if not longer, is not the right path," Browd said. "It's very hard to say we are just going to start from scratch and start over. Because we are new, we were able to start from this very fundamental place and move forward."

Browd and the Vicis team set out to re-invent the football helmet. According to the company's website, the ZERO1 was the "culmination of a 3-year, $20M research and development effort." In recent performance testing by the National Football League and NFL Players Association, the ZERO1 was the top-rated helmet on the board.

What sets it apart is its multi-layered design, built with an internal column structure. That, along with a custom fit, helps negate many of the rotational forces players can receive to their head that are believed to be the leading cause of concussions.

"The column layers are ultimately what we came up with, and that's able to dissipate the energy much better than current helmets that are on the market," Browd said. "We feel like there is an imperative to move forward as quickly as we can, because we think there is a huge need out there to get better sports equipment out."

Vicis — which Browd said means "change" in Latin — saw its helmets purchased by 25 different NFL teams for the current season, alongside numerous collegiate teams. The focus has been on the professional level this year, although the idea is to get more high school teams involved. Browd said a few hundred high school players are currently using the helmet with more teams, like AHS, possibly getting in line.

When and how this happens is still being discussed. While a typical football helmet can cost upward of $500 each, the ZERO1 comes in at $1,500 a helmet. It's a hefty price tag for any school, including Aspen's. AHS athletic director Martha Richards is certainly open to getting the helmets on the players, but has other financially burdensome projects to deal with, such as getting a new playing surface on the field.

No formal fundraising endeavor has yet been put in place, although Ward and co. have already raised enough to possibly get a few helmets for players by the fall.

"We just want to be really thoughtful about how we view it," Richards said. "So we are going to work together and figure out what our plan is going to be going forward."

For more information on the helmets, visit https://vicis.co.

acolbert@aspentimes.com