By Ken Reed
On the same day, in two different small community newspapers, I read two articles talking about a new football headwear device designed to “keep players safe” from head injuries. Here are the headlines: “Guardian Caps Keep Players Safe” and “New Safety for Player Noggins.”
Wow, from reading those two headlines one would think the brain trauma/concussion/CTE crisis in football had been solved! An older article in a Stamford, Connecticut paper called the new helmet caps “concussion caps,” implying that they reduce or eliminate concussions.
Nothing could be further from the truth. There simply is no evidence that these Guardian Caps, which slip over traditional football helmets, reduce brain trauma, concussions or chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). They may indeed reduce impact, which would be helpful in preventing things like skull fractures, but due to the fact that they add weight to the helmet, and thus add weight onto players’ necks, they may also increase the whiplash effect upon contact, possibly increasing the risk of concussion.
The problem with newspaper articles like these is that players, and more importantly their parents and coaches, can develop a false sense of security about the risk of brain injury to young players who wear these devices.
If you go to the company’s website you get a lot of marketing and PR language but very little science. But you do get this warning at the top of the page:
“No helmet, practice apparatus, or helmet pad can prevent or eliminate the risk of concussions or other serious head injuries while playing sports. Researchers have not reached agreement on how the results of impact absorption tests relate to concussions. No conclusions about a reduction of risk or severity of concussive injury should be drawn from impact absorption tests.”
At least the company lawyers are probably happy. But given that warning, is there a compelling reason to spend $60 on a piece of equipment with no evidence that it does any good? Guardian execs are undoubtedly smiling because they’re selling a lot of caps to people looking for a magic solution to the football concussion problem.
I don’t believe anyone has evil intentions here. In fact, the company executives, newspaper reporters and coaches and parents may all want the same thing, fewer brain injuries in football. However, there also appears to be some misleading marketing, sloppy reporting, and coaches and parents who do more hoping than researching going on here.
Are these Guardian Caps better than nothing? Maybe, maybe not, but they’re far from the solution to the concussion crisis in sports. And players, coaches and parents need to know that.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of FansPrint
- League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.