USF Bulls test the future of football helmet safety

The University of South Florida Bulls are the first football team in the county to use a brand-new, high-tech helmet. For the last two weeks, the Bulls have been practicing and playing in headgear that could be a game-changer for the safety of the sport.

There’s a lot of science that goes into safety. The new technology behind Schutt Sports F7 UR1 helmets is able to give athletes an exact fit.

“Something that is just totally different then what’s been out there in the helmet industry,” said Jeremy Lees, assistant athletic director of equipment operations for USF football.

Most football helmets can be tweaked slightly to adjust how they sit on a player’s head. These high-tech headpieces are completely custom.

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“What makes the UR1 different than any other helmet is the pod system that it has in place on the inside,” Lees said. “There’s 20 different pods and it’s a pressure-mapping system.”

Using a special helmet with 10 full-contact sensors, each athlete is measured and their head mapped. Six pads with different thicknesses and pressures can be added or swapped out on 20 positions inside the helmet for the perfect fit.

“So based on the pressure points the computer system and software is able to tell you, OK, you need a 'B-soft' in this exact point,” said Lees.

Eighteen Bulls players at positions all over the gridiron are field-testing the new helmets. They are the only team in the country outfitted with the UR1s. Officials hope to have about 75% of the team wearing them by next spring.

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Lees says the helmets are a touchdown for safety.

“The more exact fit you get, the better off you are from a safety standpoint, you're not creating false buffers or a false fit through hair," he said.  

The helmets are re-usable year-over-year. They are also transferrable. Multiple athletes can wear them by having the fit re-mapped and the pads swapped out. In the long run, these headpieces could be better for schools financially, as well.