In a sport as physical as football, player safety is of the upmost importance.
To help Middle Tennessee’s athletes play safer in practice, the Blue Raiders football team this season instituted new equipment for its offensive and defensive linemen.
Named Guardian Caps, the new pieces of equipment slip over the top of helmets and provide an added layer of protection from concussions and other head injuries.
“It’s to reduce the impact, which lessens the results of having concussions,” Middle Tennessee Assistant Athletic Director for Equipment Operations Larry Maples said. “It’s just an extra layer of protection for our guys.”
The Guardian Caps are simply just slipover pieces that fit around the helmet. They have foam rubber pieces arranged throughout that are designed to dissipate energy better than the hard surface of a regular helmet. Then, when guys hit heads or hit the ground, the foam rubber takes the blunt of the force and softens the contact.
The resulting softer contact doesn’t create the classic helmet-to-helmet sound that big hits bring.
“You first think of hearing a lot of popping and stuff, but there wasn’t any of that. It’s a huge difference,” offensive lineman Chandler Brewer said.
While the Guardian Caps can do a lot to help player safety, at the time they first came out in 2011 some helmet manufacturers started voiding warranties of their helmets because the Guardian Caps are attachments that don’t come with a standard issue helmet.
Luckily, though, Middle Tennessee will keep their warranties on their helmets even with the Guardian Caps.
“Initially when they first came out, helmet manufacturers were voiding warranties due to the use of the Guardian Cap,” Maples said. “But since then, some legal actions have been taken and it’s no longer the case. As long as the helmets pass inspection once the attachment is removed, it’s just like any other helmet.”
As for the comfortableness of the Guardian Caps, which only weigh a few ounces, Brewer said they don’t even notice they have them on.
“At first we thought we would notice, but as it went on we haven’t really noticed a difference or anything,” he said. “They’re doing a really good job and we thank our trainers for that.”
For now the Blue Raider linemen will be the only ones wearing the Guardian Caps. And with seven practices in the books as of Wednesday, no head issues have been reported.
“We just put them on the first day of camp, so we’ve been in them seven days and we haven’t had any head issues,” Maples said. “For now, we’re just sticking with the linemen because they’re the ones in the trenches. Our exterior guys don’t have as much helmet-to-helmet contact.”
For more on what’s new with Blue Raider football, click here.