WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - In the last decade, the Centers for Disease Control report that 60% more traumatic brain injuries and concussions have been diagnosed in kids. The Guardian Cap fits over a football helmet and aims to lessen the blow.
At Cardinal Newman High School, football players will be wearing Guardian Caps during practice again starting in May.
Coach Steve Walsh is a former NFL football player. He reflects on how much concussion prevention and awareness has changed in his lifetime.
"I think a lot of athletes my age, that's kind of the era we played in, you kind of played through it," he said.
Walsh suffered a concussion while playing professionally. He had taken a hit, sat on the bench for fifteen minutes, then went back into play.
"I knew what the play was, but I didn't know how to call it," he remembers.
Walsh is having players wear Guardian Caps during practice in hopes of preventing injuries, or at least decreasing the severity of blows over time.
The padded shell slips over a football helmet and snaps into place. Studies have shown the padded cover can reduce the severity of a blow by about 33%.
Juniors Kyle Lawrence and Andrew Owers both played freshman year without the caps, before they were introduced to the pads in sophomore year.
"I've noticed a huge difference in my practice and play," Lawrence said.
Both players say the cap is easy to get used to, while it makes the helmet slightly heavier, they soon forgot they were wearing it.
"There's not as much shock on the head and not as much head trauma," Owers said.
The team uses the pads during practice, but they are not using them in games. Walsh says, if a parent requests that a player wear one, or a player is concussion-prone in play, he will mandate the cover for that child.
Lawrence and Owers both say, while they are happy to feel that the impact of each blow is decreased, they would not be thrilled by the idea of wearing a Guardian Cap during a game.
"I would probably never want to wear it in games. Just for the sheer fact that no one else does it and it looks weird, you know," said Owers.
The cap is now being used at about 300 high schools and colleges across the country. It costs $59.95 for an individual cap, less if groups of them are purchased together.
There have been no long-term studies on the overall reduction of concussions due to the use of the caps, since the product is so new on the market.