2017-10-05 / Sports

MCHS football team using special caps to reduce impact of hits

Sports/Education Editor

MCHS wideout Casey Miller (with ball) is shown wearing one of the Guardian caps at a scrimmage in Modesto. In the background are his teammates, Logan Donati (far left) and Jaq Quinn. 
Photos by Matt Johnson MCHS wideout Casey Miller (with ball) is shown wearing one of the Guardian caps at a scrimmage in Modesto. In the background are his teammates, Logan Donati (far left) and Jaq Quinn. Photos by Matt Johnson Editor’s note: This is part one of a two part series about player safety for football players at Mariposa County High School. See next week’s edition for more safety measures being taken.

Football is a rough sport.

That’s no secret. It’s a game based on strength, speed and who can hit hardest.

But in recent years, the game has been placed under a microscope. Some parents refuse to let their children play. Hollywood movies such as “Concussion” have shed a light on the dangers of the game.

Whatever someone’s opinion about the sport is, one thing is clear for now: it’s here to stay.

So the question becomes, how can the game become safer?

The Grizzlies Quarterback Club, a fundraising group that supports the Mariposa County High School team, recently took a step to improve safety for football players.

The QB Club purchased 60 Guardian caps not long ago.

Many in the community have seen them already. Some people say they look like astronaut helmets. Others call them “marshmallow heads.”

The Guardian cap is a lightweight, external soft cover that augments any existing helmet to make it flexible and soft, able to more effectively manage energy and mitigate repetitive, cumulative blows. The cap can be snapped around any existing helmet.

MCHS coach Ryan Oliphant calls the caps “air bags for a helmet.”

For now, they will be used in practices and scrimmages. Eventually, they could be used during actual games.

“They’re not going to take them off the helmets until game day,” Oliphant said. “Some day down the road it might become mandatory (for players everywhere).”

Guardian Innovations was formed in 2011 by its parent company, the Hanson Group, a material science company with nearly two decades of engineering and material science expertise.

Hundreds of teams across the country are already using the Guardian caps, and currently over 60,000 athletes are using them.

There are many benefits the Guardian caps provide. For starters, the pads compress at the point of impact, reducing the g-force by as much as 33 percent. In addition, the cap’s elastic straps allow for shifting with impacts. Energy is taken a different direction so the head stays more still.

The insulation of the caps also keeps the temperature inside the helmet 15-20 degrees cooler.

The caps also reduce wear and tear on helmets, and keep paint and decals looking sharp for games. Every time an MCHS athlete needs a new football helmet, it costs $325.

“Every year, our helmets get sent in for reconditioning,” Oliphant said. “In the long run, the caps will save the program money for not having to replace helmets as often.”

The caps are one-size-fits-all. They stretch to fit all sizes, makes and models of helmets.

“I think we’re getting ahead of the curve and being forward thinkers on this,” Oliphant said. “It’s all because we want to keep the game of football safe while at the same time maintaining the integrity and toughness of it.”

Making the game safer

Oliphant said there have been concerns from parents regarding the safety of their children when playing football.

“The parents are definitely concerned about allowing their kids to play football,” Oliphant said. “Not just because of concussions, although concussions get the most attention. This definitely I think helps put them more at ease. Not just this, but all the other steps we’re taking to make the game safer. As a parent myself, I would absolutely want my kid to wear this.”

Oliphant showed the Guardian caps to parents during a preseason meeting. He explained he thinks the reaction from athletes and parents will be positive.

“As coaches we care about our kids enough to make them wear these,” Oliphant said. “It’ll take some time for them to get used to it and it may feel like they’re wearing an astronaut helmet, but it makes total sense.”

“With player safety in sports being at the forefront nationally right now, we’re looking at what we need to do to make things better and reduce risk and injuries,” Oliphant said. “We’re extending our concussion protocol. We’re evolving our game, changing the way we teach and changing with technology.”

How they were acquired

Junior varsity coach Don Stein attended a coaching clinic in the offseason, and suggested the use of the helmets to coach Oliphant. Oliphant researched it and talked to company representatives about it.

“Once I got all the information and looked at the studies, it was something I felt we had to get,” Oliphant said.

But the football program didn’t have the funding for it at first.

Oliphant looked at getting just 22 caps so that at least everyone playing on the field at once could have a cap. He approached the QB Club and talked to them about going out and getting sponsored for the caps.

That happened, and a few businesses donated money to the QB Club, but there was still a need for more of the caps. The QB Club then covered the rest of the cap purchases, for a total of 60 caps.

“Without hesitation, they said it makes total sense,” Oliphant said.

For more information on the Guardian caps, visit www.guardianinnovations.com.

Matt Johnson is Sports and Education Editor of the Mariposa Gazette and can be reached at matt@mariposagazette.com.

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