Seattle Seahawks star quarterback Russell Wilson is wearing a new helmet this year. So is Alex Smith from the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans linebacker Jadeveon Clowney.
They're all strapping on equipment from a Seattle-based startup called Vicis that wants to help the NFL and NCAA tackle football's ongoing concussion problem.
The company's Zero1 helmet is made of material that gives on impact and then immediately bounces back. It's more like a car bumper than a hard outer shell. The company says the helmet was designed to "reduce the severity of head impacts," and better protect athletes against a range of head and brain injuries.
A recent study of the brains of deceased NFL football players found signs of degenerative brain disease in 99 percent of former players. As PBS Frontline reported, data also suggest that the risk of long-term, cognitive problems for some players is up to 35 times greater than it is among the general population, thanks to head injuries sustained on the field.
While nothing on the market can completely prevent a concussion, helmets that lessen the impact of a hit are a good thing for an athlete's health.
The Zero1 beat out 32 other helmets in a safety test conducted by the NFL. Players on half of the NFL's teams have opted to wear it. The Texans, Chiefs, Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers are the biggest users.