West Orange football players will be the first in Orange County to use Riddell’s new custom-fit Axiom helmets. Players were fitted for their helmets last week.
The West Orange High School football team is the first one in Orange County to provide its athletes the opportunity to have some extra protection on the field for those players who so choose.
Warriors head football coach Geno Thompson recently read about Riddell’s new Axiom helmets and how they are custom-fitted for each individual player.
“I always pay attention to the newest technology, especially if it comes across as something that can increase safety and reduce impact in the game of football,” Thompson said.
According to Erin Griffin, Riddell vice president of Marketing and Communications, Riddell Axiom helmets took more than three years to design, which included “rigorous lab testing and three extensive field tests with more than 200 players across the country at different levels of the game.”
What makes these new helmets unique is the inner pads, which are fitted to the player’s head and made of a polyurethane solution. These custom pads are engineered to lessen the impact of helmet-to-helmet contact — one of the most common causes for concussions in football.
West Orange High School football team center Bryze Zzachorowski, 16, opted to have an Axiom helmet because of this reason.
Griffin said the helmets include a new frontal protection system and a “new-to-the-game elliptical face-mask shape and industry-first factory installed visor,” removing the top bar of the traditional face mask and eliminating extra hardware.
The removal of the upper face mask allows for the use of more energy-managing material, providing higher flex and better impact response in the front area of the helmet. The factory-installed visor provides athletes with a clearer field view.
“Traditional helmets cut out the peripheral, so you can’t really see all the way across,” Thompson said. “These are cut deep inside, so it’s like you are not even wearing a helmet. That’s a big selling point, for example, for a quarterback.”
Another new protection feature is the InSite smart helmet technology — an impact response system.
“InSite is the game’s leading smart helmet technology that analyses and reports on head-impact exposure,” Griffin said.
Helmets used in the game of football usually have a lifespan of 10 years. Every year, teams have to send helmets out for recertification. West Orange High School sends its helmets in January and usually gets them back in March or April.
Traditionally, the school purchases between 10 to 20 Riddell SpeedFlex helmets each year.
“We have to keep them on cycle,” Thompson said. “Once (helmets) get their lifespan, they get defective, and they can’t be used anymore.”
This year, eight helmets were rejected during the re-certification process, so the school is purchasing 20 helmets between the SpeedFlex and the Axiom. Previously, the school also purchased the Riddell Speed helmets but is not ordering those this year.
“We had a parents meeting, and I told them (the Axiom helmet was) an option; it’s not required,” Thompson said. “I don’t want anyone to feel like if they can’t afford it, that their kid is not going to be in a good situation, because the Ridell SpeedFlex are very tough-rated helmets themselves. This is just an option for the parents who want that extra protection.”
Besides the custom-fitted inner pads, an external difference between the Riddell SpeedFlex helmet and the Riddell Axiom helmet is its surround flex system. This system includes a combination of panels that work together to improve impact response.
The SpeedFlex helmet only has a flex panel on the front part of the helmet, meaning side impacts won’t be absorbed, causing the head to move side to side inside the helmet. The Axiom helmet has flex panels on both sides, the front and the back, providing the athlete with complete impact absorption.
Between the initial fitting and scanning of the head all the way to the manufacturing of the helmet, Riddell estimates four to six weeks of waiting before the helmet is delivered to the player.
“(These helmets) have the player’s name on the back, because it’s built for that particular kid,” Thompson said. “If you purchase this helmet as a freshman, you’ll have the same helmet for the duration of your high school career.”
Players won’t be able to keep their Axiom helmets however, because the school pays for the majority of the cost, while participating parents pay the difference.
“We are looking toward the future,” Thompson said. “Hopefully, this is something that is the right choice, good for the kids and making the game safer.”
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