Explaining the Virginia Tech 5-Star Helmet Rating System

By Dan Guttenplan, FNF Coaches Editor

Coaches may find it difficult to know what to believe when it comes to evaluating helmet safety performance standards. The Virginia Tech 5-Star Helmet Rating System is one of the most reputable models. A total of 18 helmets were rated using the STAR evaluation system in 2018.

The Virginia Tech 5-Star Helmet Rating System

Since 2011, Virginia Tech researchers have been providing unbiased helmet ratings that allow consumers to make informed decisions when purchasing helmets. The helmet ratings are the culmination of over 10 years of research on head impacts in sports and identify which helmets best reduce concussion risk. The work is done as part of Virginia Tech’s service mission and is independent of any funding or influence from helmet manufacturers.

“We have two goals with our rating system,” said Steve Rowson, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics at Virginia Tech. “We want to educate consumers and players as to which helmets are the safest. And we want to provide a tool for manufacturers to help improve safety and design.”

Through a series of impact tests, helmets are evaluated using two fundamental concepts: 1) each test is weighted based on how frequently players experience them and 2) helmets that lower head acceleration reduce concussion risk. The impact conditions and weightings are sport-specific, and inclusive of the broad range of head impacts that athletes are likely to experience. These methods have been published as peer-reviewed articles in the Annals of Biomedical Engineering.

“We know which impacts cause concussions, which are most frequent, and which locations on the helmet are hit the most,” Rowson said.

Schutt Sports’ new football helmet, the F7 LTD, earned a “Five Star” rating and the No. 1 ranking in the Virginia Tech STAR Rating System, displacing a highly touted and publicized helmet from Vicis.

The F7 LTD builds upon technology already proven in the F7, like TPU (thermoplastic urethane) Cushioning and 3-Dimensional Tektonic Plate Technology. Engineers at Schutt have enhanced the shell design of the F7 LTD to improve performance and impact absorption in high impact areas of the helmet. The company has also added Anti-Friction faceguard attachment points to the helmet.


The 2018 Virginia Tech Varsity Football Helmet Ratings

Helmet Cost Weight *Score Stars
Schutt F7 LTD $975 5.1 lbs 0.75 5
VICIS Zero1 $950 4.4 lbs 1.92 5
Schutt F7 VTD $975 4.1 lbs 2.54 5
Xenith X2E+ $289 4.1 lbs 2.92 5
Riddell Precision-FIT $1,700 4.8 lbs 3.23 5
Xenith EPIC+ $349 4.2 lbs 3.79 5
Riddell SpeedFlex $409.99 4.4 lbs 4.49 5
SG DBS.001 $329 2.9 lbs 5.39 5
Schutt Vengeance Z10 $210 3.7 lbs 6.28 5
Schutt Vengeance Pro $225 3.3 lbs 6.44 5
Schutt F7 $649 4.1 lbs 6.5 5
Riddell Speed $279.99 3.7 lbs 6.67 5
Schutt Air XP Pro VTD II $219.95 4.5 lbs 6.98 5
Schutt Vengeance VTD II $249.95 4.2 lbs 7.35 5
Schutt Air XP Pro Q10 VTD $335.99 4.1 lbs 8.42 5
Riddell Speed Icon $280 3.8 lbs 9.95 5
Schutt Air XP Pro $199.95 3.7 lbs 18.22 4
Schutt Air XP Pro Q10 $210 4.0 lbs 25.77 3
*A lower score means better protection.