Rheon Labs and Xenith awarded NFL grant for safer helmet

The US National Football League (NFL) has awarded London tech start-up Rheon Labs and Xenith a $412,000 grant toward Project Orbit, an effort to develop a safer helmet for NFL players.

NFL awarded $1.37m in HeadHealthTECH grant funding to four teams to support the creation of helmet prototypes to be submitted as part of the ongoing NFL Helmet Challenge. The challenge culminates in July 2021 with applicants submitting helmet prototypes for lab tests that represent potentially concussive impacts in the NFL, with an additional award of up to $1m.

Solving one of sport’s biggest headaches

“This grant marks a significant next step in Rheon’s partnership with Xenith to redefine performance in American Football through energy control,” said Dr Dan Plant, Founder and CTO of Rheon Labs.

Xenith is a Detroit-based designer and manufacturer of sports products. The company partnered with Rheon Labs in 2019 in the development of the Xenith Shadow XR, a helmet with an energy control cell that cushions low-speed impacts but strengthens for high-speed impacts. These so-called RHEON cells compress to absorb linear impact and shear to optimally control rotational impact energy, reducing the resulting acceleration of the head.

Side view of Shadow XR with energy control cells

“Protection in American Football has been in the spotlight for the last few years. Collaborating with Xenith’s team gave us the opportunity to bring our technology to an area that is ready for ground-breaking innovation,” Plant said in a statement. “It has been an exciting start to our partnership with Xenith, combining our technology with their expertise in performance and protective gear for the football athlete. This marks the start of our collaboration to truly transform products through energy control over the coming years.”

The HeadHealthTECH Challenge series is part of a comprehensive $60m effort – funded by the NFL – to improve the understanding of the biomechanics of head injuries in professional American football and make the game safer for players.

In 2018 a team from Cardiff University won Tech Challenge V for its unique padding material for use as a helmet liner.