NFL will allow players to wear Guardian Caps during games starting in 2024 season

USA Today

April 26, 2024

The NFL is taking another huge step in its bid to improve player safety while specifically attempting to reduce head injuries in an inherently violent sport.

The league revealed Thursday that Guardian Caps, which have steadily become a fixture in practices, will be authorized for use in games during the 2024 season.

“So we have expanded the (practice) mandate to all players with still the option for quarterbacks, kickers, and punters. But then also there is the option for a player to wear it in the game if he so chooses,” Dawn Aponte, the NFL’s chief administrator of football operations, said during a health and safety webinar.

“There were a number of clubs that had already required all of their players to wear those (in helmeted practices).”

It’s something of a seismic shift as it pertains to game day, but players have generally embraced the padded covers attached to the outside of the helmet. Per league analytics collected over the past decade, “if one player is wearing the Guardian Cap at the time of a helmet hit, the cap will absorb at least 10 percent of the force. If both players are wearing the cap and have a helmet-to-helmet hit, the force of the impact is reduced by at least 20 percent.”

Given that level of injury prevention, it appears players are OK with form over fashion at a time when the league is also encouraging players to strongly consider position-specific helmets designed to minimize their exposure to head injuries based on even more specific risk factors.

“It’s really become a norm here,” said Los Angeles Rams equipment director Brendan Burger. “The players know the Caps. They’ve seen the data, it works. The Guardian Caps have become another piece of equipment that they take to practice. You think about all the head impacts that we’re reducing from players wearing them and it’s second nature now.”

Burger also shared that the Rams opted for additional use of the Caps in practice back in 2021 after quarterback Matthew Stafford injured his throwing hand in training camp upon hitting it on an uncapped helmet while following through on a pass

So does this new safety expansion mean Guardian Caps will soon become mandatory every time any player takes the field, whether in practice or for a game?

“Incremental improvement each year, we’ll see,” said Aponte, who also shared that players and teams had been, “very receptive to the change.”

And more could soon be coming down the pike as the league continues to collect safety data on the Caps as they’re worn in live-action game environments.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Equipment Standards News

View All