Kyle Auffray is Vice President of Gamebreaker and a former NFL athlete. We spoke to him about their mission to protect athletes and why they chose to use D3O® technology.
D3O: What is Gamebreaker? What is the headgear made from?
Kyle Auffray: Gamebreaker is not only the inventor of soft-shelled headgear for non-contact sports, but also pioneered the market. Our product is moulded out of a combination of comfort foams, the industry-leading D3O® impact foam, EVA, and Lycra. We partnered with D3O to offer the highest performing soft-shelled head protection on the market. Our headgear is worn for maximum protection upon impact during non-contact sports like 7v7 football, flag football, wrestling, field hockey, soccer, women’s lax, etc. The hook and loop chin strap with the combined adjustable laces or expandable back panel enables a custom fit, which limits movement and means consistent protection. Our headgear is machine washable, anti-microbial and anti-bacterial, and extremely breathable.
D3O: How did you first encounter D3O?
KA: We searched the globe for the best way to improve and stay best in class. The science and testing behind is unmatched and our extensive research looking for the best impact technology in the world landed us at your doorstep. We were not only blown away by the “orange goo” but the numbers we found in impact testing blew everything else out of the water when coupled with our patented designs.
D3O: You’ve started working with a number of University football programmes. What are they using them for?
KA: We’re working with some of the major D1 college football programs include Texas, Duke, Texas A&M, Kansas, TCU, Houston, and many more. They wear our headgear during non-contact practices, walk-through sessions, and during 7v7 and player-run practices in the summer and off season. In addition to college football, we have collegiate programs in many other sports such as volleyball, water polo, soccer, field hockey, women’s lacrosse, rugby, and wrestling. Our helmet, compared to others on the market, offers a superior levels of impact reduction and force dissipation.
D3O: How pleasing is it to see high-profile organisations taking safety so seriously?
KA: These programs, especially the coaches, were extremely excited about using Gamebreaker and the added protection it gives the athletes. There has been soft-shelled headgear on the market before, but they were all constructed without impacts in mind. Our product confused the market initially as they didn’t understand what differentiated us from the others. Since our partnership with D3O, schools, trainers, and athletic directors were able to see monumental decreases in impact attenuation. Add the science and testing and they were blown away by the benefits of Gamebreaker.
D3O: Concussion in contact sports is a big issue. Did players worry about it when you were playing?
KA: Concussions and head injuries were always a concern, but the long-term effects and results are what recently have come to light. Attitudes have definitely changed, especially with the combination of more science/testing as well as media exposure. The big issue which people confuse is CTE vs. concussions. CTE or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy is the term used to describe brain degeneration caused by repeated head traumas and repeated sub-concussive blows. Our goal and mission at Gamebreaker is to combat these day-to-day sub-concussive blows because no helmet can prevent concussions. But if we can help reduce day-to-day head trauma, we are helping improve player safety and long-term quality of life.
D3O: Do you think there could be a time when all NFL teams adopt soft shell headgear for practice sessions?
KA: If you are referring to Gamebreaker, the answer is YES. Again, there is nobody doing what we are doing as it pertains to force attenuation, linear impacts, and rotational impacts. We already have commitments from a few teams for 2018, but 100% penetration and adoption is our goal. Our goal is to work with the NFL across the board to reduce head injuries and replace the traditional helmet in non-contact practices.
D3O: There are some worries about a decline in children playing football. What reaction do you get from parents? Are they reassured by the helmets?
KA: The decline in youth participation has many factors, but that’s in tackle football. Part of the reason is the growth of flag football and 7v7 at youth level, which partly comes from parents not wanting to expose their children to possible head injuries that may occur in tackle football. The numbers in these sports as whole aren’t changing, if anything, they’re growing with the globalisation of the game at all levels. Our headgear has been widely accepted and in many cases, is required in the flag and 7v7 football space. Many tackle programs are converting their younger kids to flag football, which by the way can be played all year round. That said, the “peace of mind” factor that parents give as feedback has been overwhelming.
D3O: What’s next for Gamebreaker?
KA: As of 2018, we’ve agreed to a global partnership with Adidas. Not only for football, but for all sports across the board. We’d love to see Gamebreaker become a global brand protecting not only athletes in the U.S. but around the world. With athletes getting bigger, stronger, and faster at a younger age, head injuries are occurring more often. When long term quality of life comes in to play, we need to start taking necessary steps to protect our players and thus protect the games they are playing.