RIVER FALLS — Impact Sports is among the semifinalists for Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest.

More than 200 entries have been narrowed down to 52 semifinalists in the categories of advanced manufacturing, business services, information technology and life sciences.

Impact Sports is a River Falls-based start-up working to develop new headgear for football players. In addition to the standard tackle helmet, the firm is working on a soft-shell helmet for non-tackle football.

Dr. Joshua Cleveland and Dr. Gina Cleveland started Impact Sports in 2017. The two have both been in practice as chiropractors for more than 20 years, treating athletes on all levels, from pee wee to professional.

They were seeing what seemed to be a growing number of concussions in their patients, something they have attributed to a spike in cases and their sensitivity to it.

“I remember driving home and saying, ‘We have to do something about this,’” Joshua Cleveland said.

The technology of head gear hasn’t changed much in 20 years, he said, and they thought they could do better.

The Impact Sports design is modeled after the anatomical structure of the human skull, with plates that flex to better absorb and distribute the force of a hit, Cleveland said.

The helmet design has been impact tested in Cleveland. The prototype, which Cleveland said is not the final material, outperformed four of the top 12 helmets on the market now.

“It’s doing what we thought it would do,” he said.

The next steps include finite testing, tooling and building the helmets, and then testing for certification.

“Our goal is not to acreage another average helmet,” Cleveland said. “We’ll revise until we’re the top performing helmet on the market.”

The process could be 12 months, Cleveland said.

“It’s a massive project,” he said. “It’s much bigger than what I thought it would be.”

The work, though, has been rewarding, Cleveland said.

This is the third year Impact Sports has been a part of the Governor’s Business Plan Contest. It placed second in the last two years in the business services division, Cleveland said.

The contest provides some funding, and has also provided contacts, including plastic engineers and potential investors, Cleveland said.

“It’s really exciting for us,” he said.

The next rounds require submitting a full business plan, and then presenting live and the contest. Winners will be announced June 4.