NFL chooses Youngstown to kickstart challenge to develop safer helmet

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The challenge is to come up with a new helmet that outperforms all current models in preventing concussions

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – The NFL is coming to Youngstown, looking for the best helmet design to protect football players and solve the sport’s concussion problem.

On Thursday, the NFL announced what it’s calling the NFL Helmet Challenge — a three-day symposium from November 13 to 15 at the DeYor Performing Arts Center downtown.

The challenge is to come up with a new helmet that outperforms all models currently in the NFL.

One of the reasons it’s coming to Youngstown is the NFL is partnering with AmericaMakes, one of the nation’s leaders in 3D manufacturing.

The NFL is inviting experts, innovators and helmet manufacturers.

The agenda for the symposium will include background on the current state of the science around helmets and certain concussions in the NFL, information on the challenge and available resources, and breakout sessions to stimulate networking, team building and the creation of successful grant applications.

“Helmet technology is advancing at an impressive rate,” said Jeff Miller, the NFL’s executive vice president for health and safety innovation. “Yet, we believe that even more is possible…Innovation can be catalyzed if we engage with creative and talented people from across disciplines to attack this challenge together.”

The NFL is putting up $3 million — $2 million in grant funding to pay for the prototype and a $1 million award for the winning design.

The NFL Helmet Challenge doesn’t wrap up at the end of the symposium. Those participating have a number of deadlines to submit plans.

The deadline to submit a helmet prototype is May 2021. Those prototypes will go through simulations of potentially concussive situations.

Congressman Tim Ryan praised the NFL for choosing Youngstown for the symposium. He released a statement Thursday:

“There’s no better place to host the NFL Helmet Challenge symposium than in Youngstown, Ohio. As the home of AmericaMakes, the Youngstown Business Incubator and Youngstown State University, our city is at the forefront of innovation and technology and has become the world leader in the field of 3D printing and advanced manufacturing. These technologies will be critical in increasing the safety of our athletes. Concussions are a widespread and persistent issue, not just for athletes competing in the NFL but in our nation’s colleges, high schools, middle schools and youth leagues. This is a problem that cannot wait to be fixed. As a former quarterback and the father of a high school football player, this issue hits close to home. The NFL Helmet Challenge and its kickoff symposium here in Youngstown is a great first step toward reducing head traumatic injuries and ensuring our athletes can compete safely on the field. I have to believe that the NFL would not have made the decision to come to Youngstown if it wasn’t for the amazing work being done at AmericaMakes and I am proud to have been able to help secure the federal funds needed to open up this innovative institute. I look forward to continuing to work together to keep our community on the cutting edge of these technologies.”

Ryan, along with former Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, walked through the AmericaMakes facility in 2015.

At the time, there were helmets on display to demonstrate the capabilities of additive manufacturing.

You can learn more about the NFL Helmet Challenge on the NFL’s Play Smart Play Safe website.

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Mel Robbins Main Area Middle

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