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Helmets continue to evolve

Things done changed: Football's most vital piece of equipment looks a lot different today than it did in 1982



The Riddell 360 is one of the latest -- and safest -- helmets to hit the market. / Courtesy of Riddell

Ever since the inaugural American Family Insurance ALL-USA was named 30 years ago, a lot has changed in high school football. Players are bigger. Gear is lighter. Players are more specialized. In “Things Done Changed,” we’ll look at how the game has evolved.

Over the last three decades, new materials and technologies have helped improve the game’s most vital piece of equipment.

Football helmet DNA has evolved with advanced technology to better diffuse force and help reduce risk for concussion.

MORE: 30th Anniversary American Family Insurance ALL-USA Football Team
PHOTOS: High School greats then and now

Parts of the helmet have even gone digital. The Battle Sports Science chinstrap launched in 2011 and includes a computer chip that flashes specific colors to indicate the intensity of a hit.

That a big change since the 1980s, when Riddell’s M155 helmet was considered revolutionary for its liquid-filled cells that were used to help disperse impact from a hit.

MORE: How other football gear has changed since 1982

And that’s just one chameleon-like transformation that the helmet has undergone. Here’s a look at other significant alterations.

1982 Riddell M155 helmet

Riddell introduces the M155 helmet, which pads the head with a combination of foam and liquid-filled cells. The liquid reduces the dispersing of energy from a blow.

1984 — Protective visor

Minnesota Vikings defensive end Mark Mullaney wears the first protective football visor to shield a healing eye injury. The visor’s purpose is later used to also reflect glare and protect against rain, snow and wind.

OTHER FOOTBALL CHANGES: Recruiting | Camps | Specialization

1986 — Polycarbonate helmet

A lighter and more durable material called polycarbonate is integrated into football helmets.

1999 – Titanium faceguard

Leading football helmet maker Schutt Sports creates the first titanium football faceguard. The material is lighter than commonly used steel, offering players a competitive advantage.

2003 – TPU cushioning

Schutt unveils the first helmet with Thermoplastic Urethane (TPU). The cushioning feature is considered one of the most significant advancements in 30 years for its ability to absorb impact, manage head heat and resist mold, mildew, fungus and bacteria.

2007 Individual helmet system

Riddell’s individual helmet system enables a player to monitor the number of impacts he experiences. The system features electronics that record every impact. Players can upload and analyze the data.

2008— Quick-release chin strap

Riddell invents a push-button release, which cuts facemask removal time in half.

2011 — Impact Indicator Chinstrap

Battle Sports Science launches a chinstrap built with a computer chip that measures the force of a hit to a player’s helmet. A chip flashes specific colors to indicate the hit’s intensity.

2011 — Riddell 360 helmet

Riddell’s revolutionary helmet design features a lightweight facemask, which flexes and disperses energy to help reduce force from frontal impacts.

The helmet earns a five-star rating from Virginia Tech Helmet Ratings, which assesses a helmet’s ability to reduce concussion risk.

 

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