GREELEY, Colo. (CBS4) – Concussions are a hot button topic in football and there has been a lot of talk about what can be done to reduce or even prevent them. But at the University of Northern Colorado, they’re not talking about it, they’re doing something about it.
By adding just one piece of equipment during practice, UNC has taken a huge step in player safety.
Fans who attend a Bears football practice can’t help but notice the pads a majority of the players are wearing on the outside of the helmets. They’re called “Guardian Caps,” and the company that makes them says they reduce impact by 33 percent.
UNC head coach Earnest Collins saw video of University of South Carolina players wearing them on TV and decided to have his players start wearing them at the start of last season.
“The year before we literally had probably almost double-digit concussions, Part of it was us doing it wrong, tackling wrong, hand placement wrong,” Collins said. “The other part of it was we just felt we needed more protection from that helmet-to-helmet contact that you’re going to get heavily in our game.”
Initially he put the caps on the lineman only, which lead to some teasing among the players.
“Everybody on the team, they’re like, ‘Pillow pads,’ and all that. We got every insult you could probably get based off the look of these things,” defensive tackle Lexington Smith said.
But after just one practice, Collins realized that not only did the caps make a difference, but he needed to get more players in them.
“After that first practice we had them on, the tight end and the fullback got a concussion. So we went and got some more and put them on all the impact players,” Collins said.
With a majority of the players wearing the Guardian Caps, the teasing stopped, and for the most part, so did the concussions.
“Since we put them on we we’ve had, I would say, only one and a half. And I say ‘half’ because it didn’t last as long as a concussion normally lasts,” Collins said.
Most would think something that protects a player would be welcomed with open arms by the athletes, but the players were resistant to using the Guardian Caps.
“They’re just awkward looking … but it’s safety first; just a little clunky looking, I guess,” fullback Quinn Zamora said.
“I was upset about it. I’m one of those players who always likes to hear the sound of the ‘pop’ as soon as I make contact with somebody,” Smith said. “So my first time we were putting on these Guardian Caps, it was the fact that I’m not going to be able to hear it … it takes away my desire to hit.”
But as the players got used to wearing the caps, they started to realize the benefits.
“It’s definitely decreased the concussions. At least I’ve noticed, so it’s definitely been helping the team a lot,” Zamora said. “Instead of a shock, it’s more of a cushiony blow when you hit other players.”
The makers of the Guardian Caps make no claims that their product will prevent concussions, only that they reduce impact. But it’s clear to UNC that they are doing both.
LINK: Guardian Caps