Soft-shell covers reduce impact of helmet-to-helmet contact
By Chris Sokoloski
Anyone watching the University of South Carolina football team during spring practice may have wondered what some of the players were wearing on their helmets.
Gamecocks’ trainers outfitted each offensive and defensive lineman with a Guardian Cap, a soft-shell cover that fits over the helmet and is designed to lessen the impact of helmet-to-helmet contact.
The hope is the caps will reduce the risk of concussions.
The feedback from Gamecocks’ players was immediate and positive.
“They said they could really feel a difference with the impacts, they said the impacts felt softer,” said Clint Haggard, the team’s head athletic trainer.
Once the linemen began touting the caps, other players began asking to use them.
At the end of spring practice, no concussions were reported, Haggard said.
The response was so positive, the team bought caps for every player and plans to use them during practice throughout the season and then compare the number of head injuries this season with years past.
The idea for the Guardian Caps began in 2009 when The Hanson Group was approached by a group of doctors and researchers about creating a football helmet made out of material instead of plastic.
That idea didn’t pan out, but Hanson Group kept working on alternatives. Eventually the company realized it was more cost effective to produce a helmet cover, said Matt Simonds, spokesperson for Guardian Caps.
By 2011 the company had developed the caps and donated some to local high schools in Atlanta to test them.
The testing went well, and in January 2012 the company starting selling them. About 8,000 were purchased last year, mostly by high schools.
Simonds expects that number to double in 2013.
“There’s a little bit less of a [money] commitment up front to try [the caps] out” as opposed to buying a new helmet, Simonds said. Guardian Caps are $55 each.
The caps weigh 7 ounces, are waterproof and keep helmets cool.
The caps are “one piece of the puzzle” of preventing brain injuries, Simonds said.
“It’s not a magic pill that’s going to prevent every concussion from happening,” he added.
Dr. Jeffrey Guy, the team physician for USC football, first encountered the Guardian Caps at a conference about two weeks before spring practice.
He discussed the caps with Haggard and the coaches and they decided to give the caps a try.
“I was skeptical at first,” Haggard said. “But anything that we can do to reduce the injuries that’s what we’re always looking for.”
Since USC used the caps in the spring, Haggard has been fielding inquiries from other colleges and high schools.
“On the high school level coaches and athletic directors are fully aware of the [concussion] issue,” Simonds said. “Everybody wants to do the right thing.”
For more information go to www.guardiancaps.com.
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