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Using Athlete Feedback to Create Better Helmets

Field Testing Xenith Shadow XR

Field testing means getting our products on the field with athletes early in, and throughout, the design process. All Xenith products go through this crucial component of our athlete-centric approach to product creation. Xenith Shadow XR benefitted from rigorous field-testing on its way to becoming an NFL “Top-Performing” and Virginia Tech 5-star-rated football helmet. We worked directly with players and equipment managers to answer questions about Xenith Shadow XR’s performance, durability, and comfort. 



We distributed NOCSAE-certified Xenith Shadow XR prototypes to three helmet testing partners: University of Windsor, Wayne State University, and IMG Academy. Players were chosen on a volunteer basis and equipment managers from each team ensured we had a cross-section of different position players wearing the helmets. Throughout testing, we were in close contact with all of our athletes to collect feedback and understand their experience with Xenith Shadow XR. We were also able to assess XR’s all-climate performance with our testing partners in different locales. The prototype helmets were worn for a number of weeks and sent back to us. Then, we put them through our industry-leading all-inclusive reconditioning process and re-tested the helmet’s performance in our lab.



Following a season of play and one round of reconditioning, the lab testing showed no degradation in performance of either the novel polymer shell or the RHEON™ energy control layer of Xenith Shadow XR. Xenith Shadow XR is the most durable helmet on the market and testing continues to prove it.


Another durability aspect we were able to test was the connection of the new buckle design for XR. Feedback from previous years highlighted potential for improved retention strength for our buckles during high-speed impacts. Equipment managers from all three testing sites reported a stronger connection between buckle and snap-post in XR, alleviating a potential pain point on game day.



The hands-on process of field testing allows us to make changes on the fly with prototypes, communicate the feedback, and modify products to benefit every Xenith athlete and customer. The field-testing team found that players preferred thinner jaw pads in XR than what can be found in previous Xenith helmet models. The addition of RHEON™ jaw shocks provided optimal protection but made the existing jaw pad configuration too thick. Additionally, player feedback led to a more ergonomically shaped front comfort pad. Production run Xenith Shadow XR’s will ship with an upgraded jaw pad configuration and optimized forehead comfort pads to maximize comfort as a result of Xenith field testing.



All Xenith helmets receive top marks in protection on NFL helmet testing and Virginia Tech helmet ratings. However, the test dummy can’t tell you how a helmet feels. Many players praised the balance of the Xenith Shadow XR helmet. An offensive lineman at Wayne State University said the weight balance on Xenith Shadow XR allowed him “look up from [his] stance and survey the defense easier.” This feedback affirmed our design philosophy and will impact new helmet designs in the future.



The athlete is the thread that connects all Xenith product development. In addition to specific insights about products, field testing yields valuable qualitative information about what athletes need and want on the field. Our hands-on research team picks up on gear trends and player habits that inform future designs. Field testing is just one of the many ways we Live Your Game at Xenith.



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