YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The 49ers packed up Friday afternoon and made the short flight to Cincinnati after concluding their week of practices at Youngstown State University.
The 49ers might be gone, but the NFL announced this week that it will be returning to Youngstown this fall.
The NFL Helmet Challenge symposium will be held in Youngstown from Nov. 13-15, in hopes that it will lead to a new helmet for NFL players that outperforms current models.
The league will team up with Youngstown-based America Makes, a manufacturing innovation institute that specializes in additive manufacturing and 3D printing, to host the symposium.
San Francisco 49ers co-chair John York and his wife, Denise, reside in the Youngstown area and are active in the community. John York is the chair of the NFL’s Health and Safety Committee. He said holding the symposium in Youngstown is a natural fit.
“I’ve been interested in additive manufacturing for some time, hoping this could be a way to improve helmet safety and equipment in the NFL,” York told NBC Sports Bay Area. “With Youngstown having American Makes and being the hub of additive manufacturing, it is appropriate to hold the Helmet Challenge in Youngstown.”
The goal of the challenge is to stimulate the development by experts, innovators and helmet manufacturers of a new, more-effective helmet for NFL players, according to the NFL.
Up to $3 million will be available in the challenge, including $2 million in grant funding to support the development of a helmet prototype and up to a $1 million award for the winner.
"Helmet technology is advancing at an impressive rate,” said Jeff Miller, the NFL's Executive Vice President for Health and Safety Innovation. “Yet, we believe that even more is possible. The NFL Helmet Challenge represents an unprecedented combination of financing, research, data and engineering expertise in an effort to create a more protective helmet.”
The symposium agenda will include background on the current state of the science around helmets and concussions in the NFL.
The challenge will conclude in May 2021 with the applicants submitting helmet prototypes for testing in laboratory conditions that represent potentially concussive impacts in the NFL.