LITTLETON, Colo. (CBS4) – The Jefferson County School District is introducing new soft-shell helmet covers in the athletic programs with the aim to reduce the risk of injury to students. But will the so-called Guardian Caps actually help? CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh went to Columbine High School to learn more about the move.
Guardian Caps are padded shells that fit over helmets. An anonymous donor purchased the caps for all of the football players in the district, but the shells are somewhat controversial.
This year the Guardian Caps are a requirement during practice for Columbine High football players and the nearly 1,800 players in JeffCo Schools. The move is sparked by concern about injuries, specifically concussions.
“It’s a product that’s going to reduce the impact of helmet-to-helmet hits … and the repetitive type hitting in practice. That’s the reason why we’re putting them on our kids,” said Jim Thyfault, JeffCo Public Schools Executive Director of Athletics.
“When you get hit it absorbs that energy, vibration, the harmonics, and just basically helps reduce some of the impact,” Guardian Caps CEO Lee Hansen said.
But the company website also includes a warning that states, “No helmet, practice apparatus, or helmet pad can prevent or eliminate the risk of concussions or other serious head injuries while playing sports.”
“I would not be putting this on kids if I thought it was going to be hurting them,” Hansen said.
Hansen said the U.S. government requires them to have the warning on their website.
CBS4 Medical Editor Dr. Dave Hnida has doubts about the product’s usefulness.
“This type of product gives me no reassurance. If anything it would be false reassurance,” Hnida said. “That’s not worth anything on the football field.”
According to the Colorado High School Activities Association, when it comes to Guardian Caps, “The playing rules still do not allow for them in games, as manufacturers have determined that using the device voids the warranty.”
Helmets weren’t designed with the add-ons in mind. But CHSAA says they can’t dictate what’s used in practices.
Hansen says there are 40,000 Guardian Caps used in high schools and colleges across the nation.