Photos By Hillary Ehlen
Technology continues to change how we live our life. And when it comes to college athletics, this couldn’t be any more true. Whether it’s from filming games and practices to recruiting, from highlight videos to injury recovery, technology has played a major role in making it all happen more efficiently.
We delve into all of the newest technological improvements in the NDSU athletic department and how it benefits Bison student-athletes.
PART 2: PROTECT YOUR DOME
Nathan Bjoralt is the Director of Equipment Services for the football team. It’s his first year as the director but he’s been helping with the equipment side of things for Bison football since his college days when NDSU started its historic championship run.
Bjoralt has done a little bit of everything in the equipment room for the Bison. He’s cleaned helmets and jerseys, placed decals on helmets and fitted just about every player for shoulder pads.
With the accelerated awareness of head injuries and concussions, helmets are constantly changed and modified to meet safety standards. Along with better helmets, different styles have emerged, and every player has their preferred taste.
Bjoralt brings us into the equipment room to show us the most popular styles and what new helmet technologies will be introduced next season.
NDSU has 25 Riddell SpeedFlex helmets sprinkled throughout the team. This style is three years old and has become one of the most popular looks in the locker room. We took a look at Henry Van Dellen’s SpeedFlex.
The first thing you notice is the flexible panel on the front of the helmet. This is there to bend and disperse a blow straight to the forehead so the impact isn’t concentrated on one area of the head.
There’s also five points of inflation around the helmet so Bjoralt can pump air into the pads on the inside to create a more custom-fit to the player’s head. There’s one above each jaw pad, one on the very top and two more the farther you go down the back of the helmet.
Another unique feature is the Rachet-Loc chinstrap retention system. Instead of adjusting a buckle, players just slide the chinstrap into a snug position and it releases with a press of a button.
The Schutt F7 was introduced this season. NDSU has one prototype they’re trying out this year with Demaris Purifoy and the reviews have been good. Purifoy preferred the F7’s comfort before going down with an injury, said Bjoralt.
The exterior on the F7 looks similar to the SpeedFlex, but the comfort comes from what’s underneath the outer shell. Schutt uses a radian diffusion system (RDS) liner that’s made up of many little styrofoam-like pads that can move independently when the helmet is hit.
Several cones called TPU cushioning are on top of the RDS liner. They are built to absorb more contact than any interior helmet padding on the market. They’re also manufactured to work no matter the temperature.
The titanium facemask is another enhancement Schutt has made with the F7. It’s 60 percent lighter than traditional facemasks and has a raised eyebrow design to protect players’ forehead from helmet-to-helmet blows.
SCHULTT VENGEANCE Z10
The Schutt Vengeance Z10 was released this fall after NDSU’s season began. Schutt sent NDSU a prototype to try in practice. The difference between the Z10 and the F7 is essentially the weight. The thinner titanium facemask on the Z10 makes it the lightest helmet on the market. Helmets are generally up to five pounds, but the Z10 is closer to two and a half.
Contrary to what you may think, a lighter helmet is actually safer than a heavier style. The lightweight allows players to have more control of their heads when they are hit. Increased control of their head movement gives players a better opportunity to stop their heads from hitting the turf, causing a concussion or getting whiplash from a hit.
Bjoralt said helmet companies have taken concussions very seriously, and have been making more strides than ever before in their designs to protect players. The lighter helmets are just the beginning of the evolution fans will begin to see in some of the equipment football players will use.
Nike has the apparel rights at NDSU, so everything the players wear is Nike-branded. The cleats come in three styles, fit for each type of player on the field. The lowcut, or Alpha Pro, is more for the skill position players on the edge. Wide receivers, defensive backs and sometimes running backs will generally wear the lowcut cleats.
The hightop is called the Force Savage and it’s the most popular, said Bjoralt. It’s used for many different positions, including linebackers, tight ends, running backs and even safeties and defensive ends. The boot style is called the Force Savage Elite and is for the interior lineman, but mainly the offensive line. The higher ankle support is padded to protect the players that spend their Saturdays mixing it up in the trenches.
3D PRINT DESIGN
The soles of the Nike cleats are 3D printed. The plastic print is then attached to the bottom of the sneaker. Bjoralt has said the 3D-printed plate is as durable as he’s seen on a cleat. The spikes on the bottom are formed into the base. Nike actually ran tests to discover the best design. That’s why they are triangular-tipped and not circles or squares.
NDSU football players get two pairs of cleats a season. One is given out at the start of August camp and the other is put in their locker prior to the first game. Generally, the players will have a pair they wear on game day and a pair they use during practice.
One of the upgrades Nike has made, and this could be due to the 3D printed sole, is that the cleats are actually easier to break in. Instead of going through a few practices to get the flexibility the players need, the cleats come out of the box ready to be worn when the whistle blows.