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What is the NFL Helmet Performance Test?

The goal of NFL helmet testing is to predict on-field helmet performance. The NFL helmet test rankings are based exclusively on the helmet's ability to reduce impact severity in laboratory testing. What is the NFL helmet test based on? How do they test the helmets? How do they come up with the helmet score?


The NFL is constantly attempting to make their test more representative of on-field environment and improve the specificity of how they evaluate helmets. 


The NFL reviewed game footage and did video reconstruction of the concussion causing hits to determine what helmet speeds, impact locations and orientations they needed to test. With location and severity determined, the concussion causing hits were then reconstructed in a lab to measure head response in a replicable environment. 


The helmet is impacted using a pneumatic ram. The ram impacts the helmet at 3 speeds 5.5, 7.4, 9.3 m/s. These speeds are indicative of NFL level hits. The ram features a soft endcap with a nylon impactor face that simulates an opposing player's helmet. 


The NFL test 6 helmet impact locations: Side, Side Upper, Oblique Rear, Facemask Central, Facemask Side, Oblique Front.


A Helmet Performance Score (HPS) is assigned to each helmet tested according to a weighted average of impact severity and location. (Of the 6 locations tested some are weight more heavily than others.) The NFL's injury metric attempts to correlate the data to tissue level injury prediction. Duration, magnitude and direction of impact are all important in predicting tissue level injury. 



Each year the NFL publishes its results in the form of a poster that is displayed in all NFL locker rooms to educate players, coaches, and equipment managers. The right side of the poster has text that explains the graph and highlights factors for which the test doesn't account. The poster specifies that "helmet fit, retention, temperature, dependence, and long-term durability are not addressed in the rankings."



Our athlete-centered approach incorporates several factors, including helmet testing, to consider for on-field helmet performance. Specifically, we are focused on optimizing impact performance in a wide range of environmental conditions, as well as controlling energy through a range of impact severities, from the high-frequency smaller hits, to the lower-frequency more severe hits. Furthermore, ensuring athlete comfort, heat management, and a feeling of natural agility are critical for holistic helmet performance on the field. 


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