University of Washington

Citing comfort, fit concerns, Vicis pulls Zero1 helmets from Huskies

After eight practices wearing new helmets designed to reduce impact forces and help prevent concussions, the Washington Huskies went back to their old Riddell lids on Wednesday.

Seems the new ones didn’t quite fit right.

Vicis, the Seattle-based startup that created the Zero1 helmets the Huskies had been wearing throughout fall camp and planned to wear this season, has pulled the helmets back into its lab for “fit and comfort refinements,” according to a UW spokesperson.

It is not a safety issue, a spokesperson for Vicis said, but a response to player feedback about fit and comfort — particularly in the chinstrap and forehead area. Vicis also pulled its helmets from the University of Oregon. The Ducks are the only other college program using the helmets this season.

There is no timetable for when Vicis might return the helmets to UW, so the Huskies’ new plan is to simply wear the Riddell helmets they used in the past.

“Obviously a little bit disappointing,” UW coach Chris Petersen said after Wednesday’s practice. “But I have a lot of respect for Vicis, getting it right, wanting them back, and we’ll fix it. I think when you’re trying to be on the cutting edge, on the front edge of innovating, it’s never going to be a seamless process.

“They’re the ones that came to us and said, ‘We want them back,’ to look at them and make them right.”

Several UW players who were asked about the helmets during the first week of camp said they liked them — Petersen echoed that — with only mild complaints about the way the helmets fit. But despite 12 different sizing combinations, there were apparently some complaints about the comfort of the chinstrap and forehead padding.

Developed by neurosurgeons and engineers, the Zero1 is intended to act similar to a car bumper, with “a highly engineered columnar structure that moves omni-directionally to reduce linear and rotational forces,” according to the Vicis website. This is supposed to allow the helmet to “deform locally” upon impact.

UW said an anonymous donor picked up the tab for the helmets — reports indicate the helmets cost $1,500 each, though financial specifics are not available — and each player was to wear just one helmet for every practice and every game.

That meant that UW could wear only one color on its helmets — gold — as opposed to the white, black and shiny chrome alternates the Huskies wore the past two seasons.

Those could conceivably become options again with the Vicis helmets currently out of service, though Petersen had little to say about that on Wednesday.

“I can tell you what the first color is,” Petersen said. “It’s going to be gold. That’s easy. After that, we’ll kind of figure it out from there.”

EXTRA POINTS

The Huskies will hold a closed, off-site practice on Thursday before returning to Husky Stadium for a Friday night scrimmage open to season-ticket holders only. It will be UW’s only full scrimmage before the start of the season. “We’ll have some people in the stadium, and I think that’s important for those guys,” Petersen said. “We’ll go through our normal kind of pre-game warmup, which we haven’t done. So just try to get them a little bit more in game mode and get some live snaps.” … Looking for a true freshman likely to see the field for the Huskies this season? Try 5-foot-10, 198-pound receiver Aaron Fuller from McKinney, Texas. He’s made plays throughout fall camp, and earned individual praise from Petersen on Wednesday. “He’s a pretty poised guy,” Petersen said. “He doesn’t make many assignment errors. And he catches the ball every time you throw it to him. If he can continue to progress, I think that’s a really good thing for us.”

Christian Caple: 253-597-8437, @ChristianCaple

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