In the last month, thanks in part to the discussion over NFL hits and concussions, the athletic protective gear industry has been buzzing. And while there’s plenty of focus on helmets, the most revolutionary game changing product might be Evoshield , which hits mass retailers in January.
The company, which was founded by former University of Georgia athletes makes wrist guards, elbow guards, as well as rib and heart protectors. But unlike the rest of the marketplace, which are sold as a one-size-fits-all product, Evoshield uses a proprietary substance that turns a gel into a hardened material and allows consumers to custom fit their protective device.
“The problem with standard plastics and foams that have been used is that they are antiquated,” said Justin Niefer, one of Evoshield’s co-founders. “They are one size fits all and they don’t actually fit to your body and hug it close enough to actually protect it from high impact.”
Evoshield claims it’s thinner, lighter and stronger than anything on the market and disperses impact better than Kevlar or gel.
Before it hits the Modell’s and Sports Authorities of the world in a couple months, pro athletes and trainers have fallen head over heels for this product.
Before the first game of the World Series this year, Niefer and his partner Stan Payne, who was drafted by the Oakland A’s in 1992, were stars in the locker rooms.
It helped that NLCS MVP Cody Ross of the Giants and Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton were already converts.
Ross wears an Evoshield wrist guard and Hamilton, who missed most of September after breaking two ribs, was fitted for and now wears a rib protector that surrounds the ribs when the mold is put into pockets on a polyspandex shirt the company makes.
"They’re so light, but so durable and so hard,” Hamilton said. “You don’t even know they’re there and it doesn’t affect your play at all.”
Evoshield got through to Hamilton through Rangers trainer Jamie Reed, who is constantly pitched products, but knew when he saw it that Evoshield was the real deal.
“The big thing is that it gives him peace of mind,” Reed said. “He’s comfortable going out there and he doesn’t have to worry about going into the wall or a head first slide.”
The company has spent the last three years perfecting the product, but when it goes to market, it won’t have any problem with endorsements. Trainers have been paying Evoshield for its product, while athletes have been wearing it for free.
When Eagles quarterback Michael Vick steps out onto the field this week after missing three games due to a rib injury, he’ll be wearing an Evoshield rib protector that protects the upper part of his chest.
Part of the presentation Evoshield execs have given to retailers includes a clip of Manny Ramirez getting hit by a pitch in the elbow while wearing the company’s elbow guard and laughing it off.
And retailers are ready to take the products, which range in price from $19.99 to $99.99. Modell’s, Sports Authority, Hibbett Sports, Sports Chalet and Academy have all committed to selling Evoshield in early 2011.
Said Niefer: “When they actually rip it out of the foil, fit it to their body and it molds to them within minutes, it’s truly an unbelievable experience.”
And if the hits keep coming, it’s OK.Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com