Auburn football using Guardian Caps during practices to protect student-athletes

WIAT-TV (Birmingham, AL)

May 3, 2024

As the NFL makes way for players to wear Guardian Caps during games to reduce head injuries, university athletic departments are taking notice.

Auburn University has used the soft shells since last fall for practices, saying protecting student-athletes is a priority and promise to the AU family.

Tyler Renard, director of football equipment operations at Auburn, highlighted the university’s commitment to player’s health.

“Anything that we can do to try to make sure we are protecting them to the best of our ability is something we are going to be interested in and implementing for our players,” Renard said.

The Guardian Cap, recognized for reducing impact by up to 33%, is a padded, soft-shell layer added to the outside of hard-shell helmets. This innovative design aims to mitigate the severity of effects during practices, similar to safety measures adopted in other industries such as NASCAR and automobile manufacturing.

Renard said when Auburn head football coach Hugh Freeze attended the SEC coaches conference, he was impressed with the information he learned about the Guardian Cap and implemented the additional safety measure into the program for practices.

“We implemented the same policy the NFL had,” Renard said. “So running backs, offensive linemen, defensive linemen, tight ends, linebackers — those guys you see with contacts with over and over in practice.”

Renard emphasized the importance of proper hard-shell helmet fitting. In 2022, AU started using 3D head scans to ensure a custom fit for each player. This personalized approach enhances comfort and safety, addressing concerns related to head injuries and long-term consequences such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

Data-driven insights obtained through the sensor-equipped helmets enable coaches and equipment managers to monitor and analyze player contact during practices. The data contributes to informed decision-making regarding player safety protocols.

Regarding adding Guardian Caps to AU games, Renard said they’ll be watching what happens in the NFL.

“I think the NFL this year will be a good test, and we’ll see how many guys in the NFL decide to wear them in the game, so that they have the option, and I think we’ll go from there,” Renard said. “We are always trying to educate ourselves and evaluate what is the best way to take care of our guys.”

Looking ahead, Renard expressed optimism about the future of player safety measures in football. He acknowledged ongoing advancements in technology and industry practices. As the conversation surrounding player safety continues nationally, certified equipment experts play a pivotal role in implementing cutting-edge technologies and best practices.

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