'Guardian Caps' aim to reduce sports concussions

6:24 PM, Aug 23, 2013   |    comments
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NEW BRIGHTON, Minn - Football players at Irondale High School were donning something new with their helmets. The team was wearing the Guardian Cap - a new product, designed to reduce concussions.

But as of last week, Irondale High School put the "caps" back on the shelf.

"They're silly looking and they look like they have big bobble heads walking around, but they know it's there for safety," said Irondale's head football coach, Ben Geisler.

The Guardian Cap is a poly blend cover which slips over the helmet and provides extra padding. The company says the product reduced impact by 33%.

"It reduces the impact when they collide by having that soft padding, with two hard objects," said Irondale assistant coach, Andy Oelker. "They put a soft padding in between. There's less friction in it. It actually keep the kids cooler."

The Minnesota State High School League says schools are free to use the Guardian Cap, but at their own risk.

"There's no proof that we have from any medical experts that these pieces of equipment help prevent concussions," said Kevin Merkle.

In July, the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment, or NOCSAE, released a statement, saying in part, any changes or altering of the helmet, whether temporary or permanent, voids the certification of compliance with the NOCSAE standard.

The standard for football helmets set by NOCSAE is what schools look to - to protect themselves from liability if a head or neck injury would occur. Schools don't use equipment that doesn't meet NOCSAE standards. In the case of the Guardian Cap, NOCSAE says, essentially, that if you add something to the helmet - it changes the helmet - and that altered helmet does not meet the NOCSAE standard.

"I think there are two things. You're taking on liability that you don't want to take on as a school district and second of all, if it's not certified by NOCSAE, it's not legal," said Merkle.

Providence Academy heath football coach Derek Asche says safety is always first and foremost. This spring he approved his booster club to purchase 80 Guardian Caps for his high school and middle school players at a cost of $3,500. But the team can't use them now.

"Now, just disappointed, can't use them, don't feel comfortable using them. I'm hopeful someday in the future we can use them, but as of now, can't do it," said Asche.

Other schools have purchased the Guardian Caps as well and have decided not to use them until the helmet manufacturers clarify their position on the use of products like the Guardian Cap.

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