SAN ANTONIO – Football season is here and a San Antonio school wants to help change the game when it comes to player safety and concussions.
The football players at Texas Military Institute are using Guardian Caps during practice.
The caps are a padded, soft-shell cover that can fit over a football or lacrosse helmet. They feature an adjustable Velcro strap in the back.
The caps were developed by Georgia-based Guardian Innovations and first used on the field in 2011.
TMI head football coach Polo Gutierrez said the caps are essential not necessarily for the game, but for practice.
“We went for the Guardians for two reasons. One we can still practice and still get after it, but you’re not losing guys in practice,” said Gutierrez. “We’re trying to get our athletes healthy to the games so if you can alleviate Monday through Thursday impacts on the head and they are only getting them Friday nights, that makes a world of difference.”
According to the company’s website, the caps reduce the force of impact upon collision experienced by football and lacrosse players.
“These guardians take about 33 percent of the hit off, which is huge,” said Gutierrez.
That percentage was measured and confirmed by a laboratory in Oregon that tested the cap’s Severity Index and Head Injury Criteria.
The caps are now being used at nearly every level of play.
Georgia, Iowa State, Clemson and SMU in Dallas are among some the high-profile universities using the caps during practice.
When it comes to the look and feel of the caps, Gutierrez said the biggest difference can be felt upon impact. The caps only weigh seven ounces.
“You can’t tell the difference until you actually hit with your head, you can tell it’s not the same, it’s a lot lighter,” Gutierrez said. “It hasn’t changed their mentality, were still hitting hard, still blocking, tackling.”
The caps are not the only device in the market designed to help with concussions in sports.
Force Impact Technologies introduced the FITGuard, a mouthguard that lights up when it detects an violent impact that can foreshadow a concussion.
The NFL now uses a new sideline concussion assessment test to determine if a player can return to the field and Riddell released its SpeedFlex helmet which is designed to reduce force and take impact.
Another bit of technology is a sensor that features a handheld device that blinks to let a coach or medical staff know when a player has taken a violent hit.
While none of these products are 100 percent concussion proof or claim to be, Gutierrez believes devices like the Guardian Caps will be used more in the future.
“That’s the way the game is going to go, and it’s OK as long as we get to play football, still have pads and get to play on Friday nights, we’re going to be all right,” Gutierrez said. “We’re just making sure that our guys get to the race, and make sure everybody’s healthy on game day.”