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USWNT Member Ali Krieger Wearing Protective Headgear at World Cup

17 Jun, 2015

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
Providers Striving to Design 'Cool' Products to Help Players Avoid Stigma of Looking Fearful of Collisions

It has been a big month for headgear in professional sports that don’t require headgear. First, the ASTM performance standard for women’s lacrosse headgear was approved. Now, in time for the Women’s World Cup, a player on the U.S. Women’s National Team Member will wear performance protection headgear.

Ali Krieger will use the Unequal Halo, available from Unequal Technologies, during this month's women's soccer tournament in Canada.

According to Sports One Source, Krieger chose Unequal after suffering her second career concussion in April.

"I had never worn protective headgear before, so I was surprised how comfortable, and lightweight the Unequal Halo is," said Krieger, who wore it during recent friendlies versus Mexico, Ireland and South Korea. "The fact that that it helps protect me and doesn't affect ball control made it an easy decision to wear in the World Cup and beyond. I have learned the hard way that concussions are not fun. Unequal has empowered and bolstered my confidence."

The equipment is ASTM-certified and FIFA Law 4-approved and made with TriDur, Accelleron and other materials. According to materials provided by the company, TriDur is a patented, hermetically sealed aramid fabric used by the military and law enforcement that's 5x stronger than steel with virtually unmatched ability to absorb and disperse high impact energy. Barely 10mm thin, the Halo contours to any players' head, looking just like a headband while offering serious protection.

This summer, multiple teams at the Women's World Cup are using Unequal's gear. In addition to Krieger, players from Mexico, Ecuador, New Zealand and other nations are wearing the headband.

And Krieger is not the only player on the USWNT wearing head protection and Unequal isn't the only company making it. Carli Lloyd has also joined the small but vocal minority of players playing it safe, or at least safer. According to an article in USA Today, another segment of the headgear market belongs to Full90, a San Diego-based firm that sells a range of soccer-specific protective wear that is fully authorized after initial hesitation from FIFA. The headgear is popular in youth soccer and among players who have suffered prior head trauma.

Full90 founder Jeff Skeen was inspired to start the company after his daughter, a youth soccer player, suffered a confussion on the field. "Some of the soccer organizations, they were just really against anything that highlighted the fact that so many head injuries were occurring in the sport. It really dispelled the notion that soccer was a non-contact sport," he said.

Skeen, according to the USA Today article, would like to see major sportswear companies including Nike and Under Armour get involved with the soccer headgear market and have players wear and endorse the products, which he thinks would have the effect of turning the items into a fashionable must-have rather than "the sign of a wounded warrior."

"It's amazing how viral this thing has gone," Unequal CEO Rob Vito said in an article in The Philadelphia Daily News. "We have made protection cool."

Steve Holeman, former Head Soccer Coach at UGA, Ole Miss and Auburn and current Chairman of Unequal's Soccer Advisory Board says, "to see world-class women soccer players taking head protection seriously is an exciting development for the sport."

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