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 #32 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Prolific Author Joe Posnanski Joins the Show – Posnanski is one of America’s best sportswriters and has twice been named the best sports columnist in America by the Associated Press Sports Editors. We chat about his new book, “Why We Love Baseball,” his new Substack newsletter called Joe Blogs, and we cover topics including how baseball treats its fans, MLB’s numerous rule changes this past season, how the sport can become more fan-friendly, the greatness of Negro Leagues champion Buck O’Neil, and much more.
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Episode #31 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Foul Ball Safety Is Still an Important Issue at Ballparks – Our guests are Jordan Skopp, founder of FoulBallSafety.com and Greg Wilkowski, a Chicago based attorney. We discuss the historical problem of foul balls injuring fans and why some teams are still hesitant to put up protective netting in some minor league and college baseball parks.
Episode #30 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The State of College Athletics with Dr. David Ridpath: Problems and Potential Solutions – Ridpath is a sports administration professor at Ohio University and a member of The Drake Group, a college sports reform think tank.
Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman. We discuss the state of college athletics today.
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
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.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
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.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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