There was a period of time from 2014-18 where Xenith didn’t launch a single product. The Detroit-based football helmet, gear and apparel company was going through a transitional gap that also included rigorous amounts of research, development and investment in future products.
Needless to say, the wait was well worth it. Xenith launched 30 new products in 2019, including Xenith LOOP, the industry’s first headgear designed for non-tackle football, and isn’t slowing down to start this decade with the release of the Shadow XR helmet.
The Shadow XR is the company’s first product to feature RHEON energy control cells, an ultra energy-absorbing technology that intelligently changes its behavior in response to impact.
“For Shadow XR, we took all the amazing attributes of the Shadow and have advanced and evolved the energy-management system,” Xenith CEO Ryan Sullivan said. “We took the shock matrix and completely re-engineered that to feature and lead with this incredible material we’ve partnered with RHEON.”
The RHEON technology, invented by Daniel Plant PhD, is comprised of materials and geometries that provides soft cushioning for frequent lower-speed impacts, while adapting to strengthen for optimized protection against high-speed impacts. The material helps displace energy throughout the helmet to remove it as compared to footwear materials, which help absorb energy to be returned to the user.
The technology has been engineered at scale utilizing 3D printing into a castle-shaped, shock-absorbing pad which is designed to accommodate different impact angles since they aren’t always head-on. Energy is deadened whether it’s straight on, the back of the head hitting the ground or a side-on collision no matter if a game or practice is in the sweltering heat during two-a-days in Texas or frigid winter games at Lambeau Field in Green Bay.
Sullivan said the results of the Shadow XR speak for themselves, whether analyzed by an independent lab, the Virginia Tech helmet ratings (five stars), internal testing or those conducted by the NFL. He said the Shadow XR outperforms any other product currently on the market by a margin of 10 percent according to the NFL test matrix.
“This is the biggest change to our core technology story since the company was born [in 2006],” said Xenith vice-president of product innovation Grant C. Goulet PhD. “We’re very excited about it. It is quite a redefining of energy control in the tackle helmet space. We use energy control very purposefully because it’s intelligent material and the way we implemented it furthers its intelligence.”
The Shadow XR ($679) is scheduled to be ready and on the field for spring football across NCAA Division I and all levels of collegiate play and available at the professional level in time for NFL organized team activities (OTAs). A youth model is scheduled to come out later in the spring.
The latest iteration of the Shadow line will weigh approximately 4.5 pounds, 0.2 pounds heavier than the existing Shadow helmet, which was announced in December 2018. While the weight has increased slightly—though it is still 0.5 pounds lighter than the top industry competitor—the Shadow XR’s added ounces don’t alter its lightweight feeling, comfort or agility, Goulet said.
With the rise of head-related injuries, including CTE, and youth football participation levels decreasing—in 2018-19, boys 11-player football participation fell 3%—Xenith execs hope introducing safer products in the market will keep players, their parents and fans interested in the game while worrying less about potential injury and long-term effects and consequences.
Sullivan said the company plans to look into integrating RHEON technology into other Xenith products, though each presents its own variables and challenges.
“What we’re all about and what our vision is, we want to elevate the athlete’s pursuit in playing, training and living,” Sullivan said. “It’s all those athlete-driven insights and understanding what’s important to them both on and off the field that leads to us creating amazing products and experiences to help them elevate their game.”