Watching the football team practice, one might notice the white, segmented padding attached to the outside of their helmets. With worries about concussions being a constant concern when playing football, these soft-shell helmet add-ons, called Guardian Caps, help to further protect players from the contact constantly facing them, especially hard helmet to helmet contact. Connecting with the face mask of the helmet, the rubber-like material adds an extra layer of padding that Head Football Coach Kevin Carroll said is reminiscent of the 1960s helmets used by Ohio State and Cornell.

Reducing the forces transmitted to the hard shell helmet, it consequently decreases the force transmitted to the head. Essentially, the Guardian Cap acts like a gymnastics mat, extending the duration of the blow and consequently decreasing the impact. Guardian, based out of Georgia, claims that these soft-shell helmets can reduce up to 33% of the impact that players face. Ultimately, however, Guardian reminds consumers that no amount of padding will ever eliminate the risk of head injuries, saying, “We make Guardian to reduce some of the impact, but that doesn’t make you concussion-proof.” Furthermore, their cap won the National Football League’s Head Health Challenge, a $60 million initiative funded by the NFL with the goal of improving both helmets and protective equipment through innovation of large corporations as well as small, start-up companies. Over 60,000 high school and collegiate athletes use the caps. Even the Clemson Tigers, the 2016 College Football National Champions, use them.

Like most programs, the Academy football team uses the caps exclusively in practice settings. However, neither the NCAA or the National High School Athletic Association has sanctioned the use of Guardian Caps in games. Although they are in no way a solution for preventing concussions–which account for 7.2% of college football injuries–Guardian promotes their product with the attitude of “the more the better” in regard to padding for football.

The Guardian Caps were first implemented into practice for the football team at the beginning of Aug., and no head injuries have been sustained in practice since. Coach Carroll, believes that the caps have been well worth the investment. However, despite their effectiveness in practice, the National High School Athletic Association still prohibits the use of Guardian Caps during games. Already, the football team has had four players suffer concussions within the first four games of their season. Tatsuo Good ‘19, cornerback and running back, said that he felt the helmets helped to protect him from collisions and made the crack of helmet to helmet hits less prominent. Starting quarterback and safety, Zach Jaramillo ‘19, felt that the Guardian Cap added extra protection and even said that he would wear one in a game if he was allowed.

The guardian caps appear to be helping athletes at all levels of competition. However, since the caps are still limited to practice, athletes continue to sustain head injuries in games, and it remains to be seen if the caps will ever be implemented in high school football games.

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