Football Team Adds Helmet Cushions to Curb Impacts

Football practice for the Richland High School Rebels includes something extra. Soft cushions called Guardian Caps cover the players' helmets and are designed to offer further protection against possible concussions.

"They kind of thought they were funny looking at first," said head coach Ged Kates of his players.

The Birdville Independent School District school in North Richland Hills started using the Guardian Caps during practice a year ago and the results so far have been dramatic.

"What we've seen is probably, I would say, about a 50 percent decrease in the number of concussions," said Richland Rebels athletic trainer Dean Brosterman.

Right now, those players who get the most contact use them during practice.

"I think they're great," said Valerie Lyons, whose son suffered a concussion before he started wearing one. "I think everybody should have to wear them."

Some football programs around the country aren't sold on them, concerned that wearing Guardian Caps may raise complex legal issues if players are injured.

The Colorado High School Activities Association bans their use during games and warns schools that allowing third-party add-on accessories during practice can affect their liability.

In a statement sent to NBC 5, the University Interscholastic League said the decision whether to use Guardian Caps is made locally in Texas.

"The UIL does not have rules for or against guardian caps for football. Different companies have asked the UIL Medical Advisory Committee to approve or encourage schools to wear different caps, but the Medical Advisory Committee has not done so. The decision to use this additional equipment is made at the local level," said UIL spokeswoman Kate Hector in a written statement.

For now, Kates believes the extra protection for his players is worth it.

"Until somebody tells me otherwise," he said, "it seems like something that's helping out kids, and that's what we're all about."

The company that makes Guardian Caps does not claim they reduce or prevent concussions, only that they reduce impact by up to 33 percent.

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