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New football helmets up the grade for safety

Somerset football coach Bruce Larson shows how snuggly the new VICIS helmet fits the skull of sophomore Trae Kreibich.

Safety is the paramount point of discussion in high school football.

The Somerset football coaches are done talking and have taken action.

The Spartans have purchased 37 new VICIS helmets, a helmet the coaches believe is by far the safest on the market. A number of other teams have also made VICIS helmet purchases, including 12 by St. Croix Central. Hudson, Prescott and Baldwin-Woodville were other area teams that also purchased helmets. Because the teams banded together for their purchase, they were able to receive a lower price. They paid $750 per helmet instead of the normal list price of $950, according to Somerset varsity coach Bruce Larson.

The difference in the VICIS helmets, according to Larson, is the padding inside. Instead of being air-filled pads that can deflate over time, these helmets have a series of fittable pads inside.

“This makes them more adaptable to individuals,” Larson said.

The older helmet versions leave pressure points where much of the impact is absorbed. Because the pads in the new helmet cover the skull more evenly, the impact is distributed. This is also because the helmet has a flexible outer shell, with a series of impact distributing baffles inside of it.

There are three sizes of shells in the helmet series. The interior pads are all sized. Larson said if a helmet rides high or low upon a player’s skull, the width of the pads can be adjusted to make sure the player is protected safely.

The shell of the helmet and the baffle system are the most unique part of the helmet. In other helmets, there is no give in a collision, with the impact sent down into the neck, shoulders and spine. In the VICIS product, the flexible shell and baffles flatten out to absorb much of the shock of a collision. The VICIS helmet also features a titanium facemask, instead of the the standard steel facemask. This helps the helmet distribute the impact across the entire helmet, instead of it all being felt in one location.

Larson said two studies rank VICIS as the safest helmets that are currently available. He cites studies conducted by Virginia Tech University and the National Football League Players Association. Larson said some NFL players began using the helmets last season and a larger number of players are switching to the helmet this season. Several teams are recommending that their players use the helmets.

The Somerset football program used the annual portion of its budget designated for helmets to begin paying for the helmets. The rest of the payment for the first 25 was done completely through fundraising.

The Somerset coaches also offered parents the option of purchasing helmets this season, which the football program would then buy back next year as part of the 2019 allotment of helmets they plan to purchase. Twelve more helmets were purchased that way, meaning Somerset will have 37 of its high school players in the VICIS helmets this season.

Larson said he first heard of the new brand of helmets three years ago when he attended the Super Bowl. He said he’s stayed current on the product, wanting to get them to high school players as soon as they were available at this level. Larson said the difference with the company making these helmets is that their research began in the automobile industry.

“They are a technology company. They are collision experts,” Larson explained.

St. Croix Central coach Tony DiSalvo said this will be used as an experimental season with the new helmets. He said if the coaches are satisfied that it reduces injuries, more will be purchased next year. DiSalvo said the 12 helmets will be given first to players with any history of head issues. The next priority will be giving them to players who are the hardest hitters.

New Richmond coach Reggie Larson said, with his late hiring, there wasn’t time to investigate the helmets in time for this season. He said he will do research into helmet safety before next season.

You can read more about the VICIS helmet at the company’s website: https://vicis.com/

Dave Newman

Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.

(715) 426-1051
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