Oakley Mouth Shields
“We’ve had a real robust discussion around it that stretches back a number of months,” said Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer. “From the start, the NFL Players Association, their medical advisers, their engineers have been engaged with us. We’ve also had dialogue with players along the way, trying to look at early prototypes and developments.”
With NFL training camps coming up, the league believes it is closer to one answer when it comes to player safety amid the coronavirus pandemic: face shields for helmets.
— AP NFL (@AP_NFL) July 13, 2020
The face shield was designed by Oakley, which already provides visors for the players.
“We have well over 700 players that used the visors last year,” said Renie Anderson, chief revenue officer and executive vice president of NFL Partnerships.
The face shield 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?’
“At the end, they did have feedback from players. This was their choice for the players they’ve evaluated so far. I think each player is going to have an evaluation for themselves in terms of exactly how they favor one concept versus another.”
Crandall said Oakley came up with the design.
“Clear plastic with slits or holes in it that block any direct path of a droplet, but do promote air flow, communication, soundwaves,” he said.
“They had a visor that covers the eyes. What could we do to cover the mouth and nose area?” Crandall added. “So 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,” he said.
Dr. Sills noted the shield was designed to deal with how the virus spreads.
“Just like any face shield or facemask 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.”
NFL players were forced into virtual minicamps this offseason because of the COVID-19 pandemic and are still searching for their footing during the time in which no vaccine exists for the coronavirus.
The mouth shield has already been distributed to the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers — two teams close to Oakley’s home base — per NFLPA medical director Dr. Thom Mayer, and has also been sent to various player representatives and equipment managers for feedback.
The two biggest concerns to date have been visibility and breathability, according to Mayer.
“We’ve only had it on a few players — we have 2,500 players in the league — but I was surprised that … claustrophobia has not been an issue yet,” he said. “I think it will be when we [have more players testing them].”