Two start-ups granted nearly a quarter million dollars to develop helmet protection technology
Phoenix, AZ – March 26, 2019 – The National Football League (NFL) and Football Research, Inc. (FRI) today announced the winners of HeadHealthTECH Challenge VI. Windpact and Auxadyne will receive funding to advance their innovative technologies for use in football helmets. To-date, the TECH Challenges have awarded grants to help advance the development of 13 new technologies.
Windpact, a Northern Virginia-based company, was awarded $148,820 to tailor their Crash Cloud® padding technology for use in Schutt's AirXP Pro Q10 helmet. Windpact will partner on this project with Elemance to create virtual prototypes. Windpact was previously awarded funding as part of HeadHealthTECH Challenge II to develop the Crash Cloud®, a liner system intended to protect the head from impacts at a variety of speeds and angles. Although no helmet can entirely eliminate the risk of concussion, the padding system, which can be used in existing helmets to replace traditional foam pads, aims to address the wide range of impacts NFL players experience at different positions by absorbing and dispersing energy.
Florida-based company Auxadyne was awarded $86,688 to advance its XPF material, the world's only commercially available auxetic foam, an energy absorbing material that becomes more dense upon impact. The company will use their unique material to create a football helmet padding system that can reduce the impact to an athlete's head.
"We are grateful to be a recipient of the HeadHealthTECH VI award and are excited to utilize the funding from the NFL to improve a helmet in collaboration with an industry leader in Schutt," said SHAWN SPRINGS, CEO of Windpact. "In addition, we look forward to the opportunity to employ the NFL's resources to lay the groundwork for continual experimentation and evaluation of helmets and protective gear in football."
"The talented team at Auxadyne is humbled and excited for the opportunity to explore the use of XPF in football helmets," said JOE CONDON, President and Founder of Auxadyne. "We are confident that this generous award from HHTC VI will enable us to accomplish our company's mission of providing superior prevention, protection and performance to football athletes at all levels."
HeadHealthTECH Challenge VI is the latest in the TECH Challenge series, which is operated on behalf of FRI by Duke University's Clinical and Translational Science Institute (Duke CTSI). The TECH Challenge series is designed to stimulate research and innovation in protective equipment including helmets and related technologies, turf systems, shoulder and other pads, and additional innovative concepts.
"The TECH Challenge series continues to cultivate promising technologies and accordingly, we are excited to partner with Windpact and Auxadyne as they look to improve safety and bring their products to the football helmet market," said BARRY MYERS, MD, PhD, MBA, Director of Innovation at Duke CTSI, Coulter Program Director and Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Duke University, as well as a consultant to the NFL Players Association.
"We are excited to welcome Auxadyne into the fold and continue our support of Windpact," said JEFF MILLER, the NFL's Executive Vice President of Health and Safety Initiatives. "Both are great examples of the next wave of innovators working to commercialize their equipment designs. These companies hold significant promise to advance safety for the protection of athletes."
About the Engineering Roadmap and HeadHealthTECH Challenges
The HeadHealthTECH Challenge series is one component of the Play Smart. Play Safe. Engineering Roadmap, a $60-million comprehensive effort – funded by the NFL and managed by FRI – to improve the understanding of the biomechanics of head injuries in professional football and to create incentives for helmet manufacturers, small businesses, entrepreneurs, universities and others to develop and commercialize new and improved protective equipment, including helmets.
FRI awards the most promising TECH Challenge proposals with a cumulative value of up to $1 million a year, including in-kind support. A panel of expert judges selected by Duke CTSI, in collaboration with FRI, reviews and provides feedback to all proposals. Every TECH Challenge applicant is invited to reapply and receives constructive feedback from Duke CTSI biomechanical experts to help refine innovations and increase chances for success on future submissions.
As part of the Engineering Roadmap, FRI continues to share research, data, tools and information with engineers and entrepreneurs, including those participating in the TECH Challenge series, to help improve their equipment designs. Resources include: a toolkit of finite element models of modern football helmets, impact test dummy components, test conditions simulating on-field impacts and a comprehensive video review of player impacts to better understand concussion-causing events.
The TECH Challenges have awarded more than $1.6 million in grants to date to help advance the development of 13 new technologies.
Winners of TECH Challenge I, announced in April 2017, are VyaTek Sports for its highly efficient energy-absorbing Zorbz technology and Guardian Innovations for its Guardian Cap technology – a soft helmet cover designed to reduce the severity of impacts.
Winners of TECH Challenge II, announced in October 2018, are 2ND Skull, to research the effectiveness of its 2nd Skull® skull cap in reducing impact forces and developing a second-generation version; Baytech Products, for its prototype HitGard® multi-component helmet system concept; and Windpact, for its Crash Cloud™, an impact liner system using restricted air flow and foam in helmets and protective gear.
Winners of TECH Challenge III, announced in May 2018, are Impressio, Inc. for its ultra-dissipative padding made from liquid-crystal elastomers (LCEs); HRL Laboratories, LLC, to support the development and testing of its novel impact-attenuating pads for football helmets; and AES Research & Design for the testing of its anti-rotational kinematic (ARK) helmet prototype.
Winners of TECH Challenge IV, announced in July 2018, are FieldTurf Inc. for its all-new sports surface; Corsair Innovations, Inc. for its FEAM material; and Yobel Technologies, LLC for its faceguard.
Winner of TECH Challenge V, announced in November 2018, is Cardiff University, for its unique padding material for use as a helmet liner.
About the NFL's Health and Safety Initiatives
The NFL is committed to advancing progress in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of sports-related injuries. As part of the NFL's ongoing health and safety efforts, in September 2016, Commissioner Goodell launched Play Smart. Play Safe. — a league-wide health and safety initiative. At the heart of the initiative is a pledge of $100 million in support for independent medical research and engineering advancements and a commitment to look at anything and everything to protect our players and make our game safer, including enhancements to medical protocols and improvements to how our game is taught and played. For more information about the NFL's health and safety efforts, please visit www.PlaySmartPlaySafe.com.