By Charlie Lunan

Upstart football helmet maker Xenith LLC recalled approximately 5,900 varsity and youth football helmets manufactured or reconditioned after learning their polycarbonate shells can crack due to the absence of a key chemical.

The company first heard of the helmets cracking in late 2015, when it hired an independent laboratory to help it review a report from a customer. The review determined that a “flex additive chemical compound,” which prevents other coating components from making the shell material brittle, was not included in the paint mixture for gloss and metallic painted helmets manufactured or refurbished at its Detroit factory from May 2015 through March 18, 2016.

“We have since corrected the issue and implemented a solution so that all gloss or metallic-painted helmets manufactured since March 2016 include the ‘flex additive chemical compound,'” Xenith President Ryan Sullivan explained in an August 17 letter to customers.

Ultimately, Xenith received 29 reports of its Xenith Epic Varsity, X2 Varsity, X2E Varsity and Youth football helmets cracking. While no injuries were reported, Xenith is advising football players to stop using the recalled helmets, which sold for $140 to $400, and contact it for replacement helmets.

The helmets were manufactured or reconditioned in a factory Xenith opened in Detroit last year to meet growing demand. At the time, Xenith CFO Kerry Hughes told Crain’s Detroit Business the company controlled 9 to 11 percent of the market for football helmets, which are sold primarily through team dealers and direct to schools.

According to SSI Data, powered by SportsOneSource, which collects and analyzes retail point-of-sale data from more than 15,000 retail doors across nine channels of distribution, Xenith was the eighth best-selling football equipment brand at retail during the 13 weeks ended August 6, when its share of such sales nearly tripled.

The recall marks the only voluntary recall of a football helmet announced by the Consumer Product Safety Commission in recent years and comes a year after the NFL gave the Xenith Epic the highest performance ranking of all helmets evaluated in the 2015 Helmet Laboratory Testing Performance Results.

It’s not clear what impact the recall will have on the brand’s momentum, given that it has differentiated itself by the hockey puck shaped air bladders it puts inside the helmets to reduce the risk of concussion. Xenith, which has raised about $30 million in venture capital, manufactured or reconditioned about 100,000 helmets in 2014.

Photo courtesy Xenith