A Schutt Sports representative flew from St. Louis to Philadelphia this week to help DeSean Jackson get fitted with a new helmet that the company says will better absorb on-field impacts. It will replace Jackson's old model, which Schutt stopped making years ago.
Jackson's new helmet, Schutt's Air XT, uses a padding that absorbs 12 percent to 50 percent more impact than traditional foam, said Schutt marketing and communications director Glenn Beckman. It's the company's most popular model among NFL players, he said.
"It's a significant step forward in terms of protection from where [Jackson] was," Beckman said. He cautioned, though, that there is no such thing as a "concussion-proof" helmet.
Jackson, who has suffered two concussions within the last year, had been wearing Schutt's Air Advantage, created in the 1990s and discontinued roughly three years ago, Beckman said.
"Back in the day, that was as good as it got," he said.
That helmet used the kind of foam padding still found in most NFL head gear, but Jackson's new protection is lined with thermoplastic urethane padding, or TPU. Used by the military for years and in other sports equipment, including running shoes, the padding is more absorbent, keeps players cooler and is easier to keep clean, Beckman said.
Jackson could have even more protection if he switched to a "large standoff" helmet, which is bigger and allows room for more padding. But he is sticking with one that is in the more familiar size and shape, which Beckman said many players prefer, largely because of how they look.
"We've kept him in that old-school look," Beckman said. But he said the Air XT offers the best protection in a traditionally sized helmet. "The only way to get better protection is if he went to a large standoff helmet."
Brian Westbrook used a larger helmet after he suffered concussions last year, according to Schutt. But size doesn't guarantee safety. Linebacker Stewart Bradley had a larger helmet from another manufacturer when he was concussed earlier this season.
Beckman said many players are reluctant to change helmets. They typically stick with what they already know. Kevin Kolb, for example, was wearing a model that first came out more than 20 years ago when he suffered his Week 1 concussion. But the Air XT is growing in popularity and has helped Schutt increase its NFL market share by 11 percent, up to just over 30 percent, Beckman said.
Riddell is the league's official helmet, though players are allowed to wear other brands as long as they cover the makers' logos.
Jackson is expected to wear the new helmet in his first game back on the field since absorbing a vicious hit Oct. 17 that knocked him unconscious and gave him a concussion. Jackson did not clear the NFL's required concussion tests until earlier this week, though he is expected to play Sunday, barring a setback.