Football season is around the corner, and especially in the past few weeks, we've seen a slew of contemplative pieces about the future of the game and head injuries and whether we can ever truly make football "safe" for players. Those pieces will continue for decades more, and really, they've been happening for decades already. Football is a violent game by nature, so there's always going to dangerous element and injuries that give outsiders pause.
The question isn't whether we can make football "safe", but whether we can make it safer. On that front, helmets play a crucial role. A few weeks ago we took a look at the Riddell 360, and this week we'll examine the competition from Schutt, who sent along the Schutt Vengeance DCT.
Mind you: "No helmet is concussion proof" is a disclaimer you'll find next to just about any football helmet on the market, and it's true. But the Schutt model and its competition will try anyway, and the Vengeance technology helps protect football players on a few different levels.
- The Venegeance DCT is built to thrive at all temperatures. When you think about it, particularly among college and NFL players, football stretches between the two most extreme seasons of the year--from training camps in July and August to frozen fields in December and January. The change in temperature means that you'll likely see some variation in how the equipment performs. Schutt's goal was to limit that variation as much as possible, and at least according to an independent study performed at ICS Laboratories in Brunswick, Ohio, it looks like they've succeeded--the Schutt helmets outperformed every helmet on the market in temperature tests ranging from 32 to 120 degrees, with the Vengeance DCT leading the way.
- There's also Dual Compression TPU, Schutt's trademark cushioning system, which A) helps absorb high velocity hits B) absorbs the low velocity collisions that happen on every play, and C) helps manage heat inside the helmet. The padding on all sides also helps keep players' heads stable.
- The facemask is designed to help best absorb the force from frontal impacts, and also maximizes a player's vision, allowing players to see (and avoid) blindside hits.
But obviously, the biggest question is whether all of that works. And on that front, the Schutt Vengeance tests well, and like the Riddell 360, earned the highest possible 5-Star rating from an independent lab using Virginia Tech's controversial algorithms for helmet safety ratings.
What's more, where the Virginia Tech algorithm focuses primarily on low-velocity impacts, the Vengeance tests better than the two highest rated helmets in the Virginia Tech study for high-velocity impacts. (Where the two helmets tested at Virginia Tech average 210 g's of impact force at the front of the head, the Vengeance averages just 83). Whatever metrics you choose, it looks like the Schutt Vengeance grades out as one of the safest football helmets on the market.
The bigger picture? Schutt sought out SB Nation after reading our Riddell review, because they contend their helmet is safer, for many of the reasons listed above. But regardless of who you believe, Schutt's Vengeance DCT model grades out high on any of the metrics available. It's still true, obviously: No helmet can prevent concussions. But that doesn't mean the technology will stop evolving and getting better.
And if it's the future of football we're all worried about this fall (and it is, this fall and every fall), then the competition and controversy over testing can only be a good thing.
Whether the discussion favors Riddell or Schutt depends on who's talking, but we're having the conversation and outsiders are listening closer than ever. That progress matters just as much as the Schutt Vengeance and its ability reduce the impact of high velocity hits, and both are a step in the right direction for football.