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 Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.” We discuss overzealous adults in youth sports, the dangers of sport specialization, youth sports entrepreneurs and the profit-at-all-costs mindset, and the growing socio-economic gap in youth sports.
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Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
Episode #22 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Rethinking Sports Fandom with Author Craig Calcaterra – We discuss Calcaterra’s new book “Rethinking Fandom: How to Beat the Sports-Industrial Complex at Its Own Game” and explore new ways to be a fan.
Episode #21 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Chatting About a Broken Game With Baseball Writer Pedro Moura – Moura is a national baseball writer for Fox Sports. We discuss how and why the game of baseball is broken, what factors caused it, and offer a few thoughts on how to “fix” a great game.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
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.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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