KTTC In-Depth: Guardian Caps in high school football

KTTC (Byron, Minn.)

September 8, 2023

BYRON, Minn. (KTTC) – If you look at an NFL practice or perhaps a local college team, you’ll see players wearing padding that attaches to the outside of their football helmets.

The product is called a Guardian Cap and is described as a soft-shell helmet cover, meant to reduce impact by 33%.

While the cap is mandated by the NFL to wear at all practices this year, it’s not mandated by the NCAA or the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL).

That hasn’t stopped local teams from purchasing them for players as teams look to further player safety playing the game.

“Between conversations between our program and the district we thought it was a worthy investment. The kids’ safety is our number one priority,” said Byron Head Football Coach Ben Halder.

Winona State wears the caps at the college level.

Byron, Mayo and Pine Island wear them during practices in SE Minnesota. Byron has been wearing the caps for three years.

In high school, wearing the caps in games is legal and one team in the Twin Cities, Park High School, wore them during their week one game.

“It’s nice in practice you don’t ever get the loud helmet-to-helmet pop or helmet to ground it definitely softens the blow,” said Byron senior wide receiver Tyler Connelly.

Connelly says the padding outside the helmet doesn’t add any weight to players’ heads and its barely noticeable.

According to Halder, Byron hasn’t had a concussion in practice while wearing the caps the last three years.

“Everyone grades 9 through 12 wears a Guardian Cap,” Halder said.

While the players and coaches are seeing the impact on the field, Mayo Clinic researchers continue to evaluate not only concussions themselves but if equipment like the Guardian Caps truly do help reduce concussions.

David Soma, M.D., a Pediatric Sports Medicine Physician with Mayo, says the research is very complex when outside of a lab.

“A lot of times concussions are not only caused by the direct force but also the rotational forces,” said Soma. “So, not only the contact but the rotation and spinning of the head and movement of the head.”

Soma said it’s too early in the research phase to come out and endorse the caps from a researcher standpoint, but he is thrilled teams are taking precautions.

“It’s great we are doing the research, we are trying things, we are trying to make the game safer for kids so we can all enjoy the benefit of sports participation,” said Soma.

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