US National Football League uses helmet caps for player safety, research

Part of the National Football League’s (NFL) safety experiments aimed at reducing head injuries is the extensive use of padded helmets that NFL players have worn during training camps this summer. All offensive and defensive linemen, linebackers and tight ends are required to wear Guardian caps in practices through Game 2 of the preseason. This covers the part of the season that NFL studies have shown to have the greatest concentration of helmet impacts.

Several NFL teams tested the caps last year, and the league competition committee has mandated all teams to use them this summer.

NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills told The Associated Press that the league will analyze data from training camp practices and review feedback it collects from all 32 teams to see what impact the shells have had. actually had on reducing head injuries and to inform future health and safety efforts.

Here is an overview of Guardian Caps and their use in the NFL:

IS THE STRANGE LOOKING HEAD COVER UNIQUE?

The model worn in NFL training camps is not the same model seen on college and high school football fields. It is designed to absorb the greatest impacts from faster and stronger players in the pros.

Guardian caps feature a 12 ounce padded shell that attaches to the top of the player’s helmet. The NFL said studies indicate that when a player wears the protective gear, it results in at least a 10% reduction in impact severity. This number increases to at least 20% if both players involved in a collision are wearing them.

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HOW WILL THE NFL EVALUATE THE EFFECTIVENESS OF CAPS?

Sills said the league will look at feedback “from players, coaches and equipment managers about how they felt, what their perception was with the caps” and study concussion data during the preseason .

Sills said using the equipment in training camps could also help reduce head injuries during the season when Guardian Caps are no longer needed.

“Not absorbing so many hits during training camp will hopefully be protective in terms of reducing concussion susceptibility later in the season,” the league’s chief medical officer said.

WHAT OTHER SAFETY TESTS ARE UNDERWAY?

Four teams – the San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles – are participating in a program in which high-tech mouthguard sensors are used to collect kinematic data, including the speed, direction, force, location and severity of impact. shots.

This study works hand-in-hand with the Guardian Caps, Sills said.

“We have a subset of players with four teams who wear mouthguards with sensors. And we can actually measure what force is transmitted inside the helmet. So we will have data on that cohort of players,” Sills said.

The doctor said the mouth guard program will continue after the Guardian Caps trial, allowing a comparison of the impacts of the helmet with and without the caps.

IS THERE SCEPTISM ABOUT GAURDIAN CAPS?

There are. Some NFL players and coaches have questioned whether the caps would work, including New York Jets coach Robert Saleh.

Chris Nowinski, co-founder and chief executive of the Concussion Legacy Foundation, is also not convinced the Guardian Caps will help prevent brain injuries.

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“The reality is that when you’re talking about a 10% reduction (on impacts) best case scenario it’s going to be offset by more hits to your helmet,” Nowinski said. “Thus, the influence on long-term CTE is, at best, likely microscopic.”

WHAT DO PLAYERS THINK OF GUARDIAN CAPS?

Over 100 NCAA programs have used Guardian Caps in the past two years, so some NFL players were already familiar with them.

Their opinions vary on the effectiveness and future use of the caps, but players generally embrace any safety effort to reduce head injuries.

ARE GUARDIAN CAPS NFL EQUIPMENT?

Sills said it’s too early to predict whether some form of Guardian Caps will become as common as shoulder pads or other gear, but noted that the NFL is “open-minded where the data tells us.” lead”.

Possible next steps include requiring Guardian Caps during the 14 fully padded practice squads allowed during the regular season and some iteration of the product could one day also be used in games.

Manufacturers may also integrate some of the technology into the helmets themselves.

Sills said the Guardian Caps had already produced an unexpected advantage. Teams that tested them last year found their quarterbacks didn’t have to worry about breaking a finger on an offensive lineman’s helmet.

“It wasn’t something we had thought about,” Sills said, “but it’s something we’ve heard about and maybe…a side benefit.”

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