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NFL suggests helmet face shields to protect players against coronavirus

An NFL helmet features a face shield intended for players' protection amid the coronavirus crisis
The NFL believes face shields for players’ helmets could be one answer when it comes to player safety in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.
(Oakley)

With NFL training camps set to start at the end of the month, the league believes it is closer to one answer when it comes to player safety amid the coronavirus outbreak: face shields for the players’ helmets.

The NFL and the players’ union agreed to several protocols in a 42-page document last week, including team travel, media and treatment response. They have also updated the facilities protocol, specifically addressing training camp, using recommendations from a joint committee of doctors, trainers and strength coaches.

However, the two sides haven’t agreed on testing and screening protocols for the coronavirus.

One idea suggested by the union’s medical director, Dr. Thom Mayer, to help control the spread of the virus was to have players wear face masks. The league’s engineers and a sports equipment company tested prototypes for the masks, but players shot it down.

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The face shield was designed by Oakley, which already provides visors for the players, and has received a better response than the mask suggestion.

“The player feedback was integral in coming up with this design,” said Dr. Jeff Crandall, chairman of the NFL’s Engineering Committee. “They [Oakley] would start with this design and say: ‘Do you like this one better or this one? How’s your field of view on this one?’”

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“Clear plastic with slits or holes in it that block any direct path of a droplet, but do promote air flow, communication, sound waves,” Crandall said of the design.

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He added: “They came up with a mouth shield that tried to keep the field of view as much as possible; you don’t want to block the lower part. You want to promote breathing and not a sense of restriction. You want to maximize comfort.

“Prevention from touching the face was also a consideration, and obviously the biggest consideration was how can you mitigate the exchange of droplets.”

Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, noted the shield was designed to deal with how the virus spreads.

“Just like any face shield or face mask for that matter, you’re thinking about the aerosolization of droplets and the spread of it via that mechanism, which is starting to be recognized as the more important mode of transmission.”

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With training camps scheduled to start in a couple of weeks, there’s still no timeline for the helmets with face shields to make their debut.

“We will love to have them rolled out by the time we start,” Sills said. “Obviously we won’t be starting helmeted activities right when training camp starts, that’s a little bit of a down-the-road thing. We would love to get them on board from the get-go.”


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