GelDefender Impact Players: Willie Lanier


Willie Lanier, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker from 1967-77 and Pro Football Hall of Famer since 1986, takes a well-deserved place as the first GelDefender Impact Player. He was renowned for the hard hits he delivered during his rookie season until the game during which he took a knee to his head. He shook off the wooziness from what he knew to be a concussion and continued as normal until the game a week later, when he suddenly collapsed during a break in play. He didn’t regain consciousness for two hours. Eventually, the Mayo Clinic diagnosed him with a subdural hematoma: he was bleeding into his brain.


Once he’d recovered and was back in the game, Lanier decided that in order to protect himself, changes needed to be made. He chose to wear a modified helmet with extra padding on the outside to protect his head, an early approximation of what GelDefender is doing now.


He also resolved to never again lead with his head when tackling, instead wrapping himself around opponents. Between his first and second season, his nickname changed from “Contact” to “Honey Bear.” Looking back, having achieved both a wildly successful career and good health today at age 67, he has no reason to regret the concessions he made to protect himself.


Today, Lanier is a member of the NFL's Player Safety Advisory Committee and works to encourage other players to follow his example to take ownership of their own head’s safety by playing safer and smarter.


*Scientists have no conclusive evidence as to whether or how the reduction of g forces during impacts reduces the number or degree of concussions and head injuries. GelDefenderTM products provide supplemental padding as well as cooling and comfort benefits when used with helmets and caps. Participants in activities in which head impacts can occur should always use tested and approved helmets for protection. However, no helmet or supplemental padding can protect the user from all serious head or neck injuries that can result from impacts.