August 20, 2023
Over the last couple of seasons, there has been a new feature popping up all over football fields. These of course are Guardian Caps designed to help prevent concussions. On first glimpse the helmets look very silly, making whatever player is wearing it resemble Toad from Super Mario Bros.
While goofy looking, these helmets are game changers. According to a report from NBC Sports outlining how efficient guardian caps have proven through a couple of weeks of training camp. According to NFL Executive Vice President Jeff Miller, there has been a 52% decrease in player groups that are required to wear the cap.
While the Guardian Caps are nothing new [they debuted in 2010], it took over 10 years for the technology to take off. If my memory serves correctly these were debuted during the 2020 season but just as an option. In March of 2022, NFL owners passed a rule ensuring that players on both lines, running back, linebackers, and tight ends have to wear one during practices to prevent head injuries. This year they will be worn during all mid-season and post-season practices.
These helmets are not only in the NFL but also in NCAA football where you will often see the linemen wearing these helmets. This is even on display at Northeastern State practices, despite being a Division II program. The most surprising place I have seen these helmets so far was at a recent practice at Sequoyah High School. For me, that was the first time I had seen these helmets at the high school level.
The Indians not only had the Guardian Caps but also had the entire roster wearing one, not just linemen like most NFL and NCAA schools implement. To me, this shows that SHS holds player safety in high regard. While they will not be a fashion statement by any means, it is fair to say that the caps are efficient with their extra padding helping soften the head-to-head blow.
Over the next couple of years expect Guardian Caps to continue to grow in popularity out of necessity and a desire to improve player safety. Recently there have been several talks to expand the use of Guardian Caps. The first step seems to be taking a page out of the Indians’ playbook and starting having all position groups wear protective headwear. Even more shocking though was that I saw a report that the NFL was at least going to discuss making Guardians Caps mandatory during games.
“I think the day could come given the fact it’s a relatively new cap this year,” said Miller to the Kansas City Star. “We want to get another set of experiences with the players. Look at the data for this year, kind of see where we’re at with that. But at the same time, a lot of th e helmets are also making advances, too.”
While for the most part, the caps have been well received, there are naturally going to be skeptics. When they were implemented Green Bay Packers linebacker thought that players would hit differently once they were back to their normal helmets. Though NFL’s Chief Medical officer downplayed this claim, saying the brain does not “acclimate to head impact,” but rather just adds safety during the time that the most concussions occur.
While time will ultimately reveal how effective these caps are through the early stages I think they might be what the NFL has been searching for over the last 10 years. The steep decrease in training camp concussions is huge for a league that is constantly facing criticism about head trauma. These caps can be used across all age ranges and might change football for years to come in a good way.
The University of Utah Utes have been using the protective Guardian Caps since the fall of last year. Recent images and video from pre-season practices show that hasn’t changed, as players continue to wear the caps.