With the National Football League's 2023-24 season fully underway, some people are wondering why teams aren't using Guardian Caps — padded soft urethane shells on the outside of plastic football helmets first validated in 2019 — more often.
Currently, the caps produced by Peachtree Corners, Ga.-based Guardian Sports are required for players in some key positions during NFL training camps, and Jeff Miller, NFL executive vice president overseeing player health and safety, said before the start of this season that there was a 52 percent decrease in concussions by players wearing urethane Guardian Caps in 2022 compared with players at the same positions in the three years prior to the league's required use. In 2023 training camps, the league's mandate expanded to more players, and they recorded 46 percent fewer injuries, NFL Chief Medical Officer Allen Sills noted.
"That's basically two preseasons in a row where we've seen that magnitude of a drop, suggesting that the success we saw last year in the preseason wasn't just an aberration," Sills said in a preseason conference call.
So why, not use caps more widely?
At Slate.com, writer Noah Cohan questions if it has something to do with marketing, since solid helmets are easier to decorate with team logos. At ArsTechnica.com, Tufts University rehabilitation specialist James M. Smoliga notes the lack of clarity on injury statistics since they rely on statistics self-reported by the NFL and players.
The NFL's Sills, meanwhile, says we may see more of Guardian Caps going forward.
"We think the Guardian Caps are showing their benefit, and it certainly will be an active discussion about next steps with that as we move forward," he said.