Soft shell football helmets used by Niles H.S. team

Niles High School is apparently doing something no other area school is doing to prevent concussions on the football field.

“That’s all it is, it’s just putting extra padding on the helmet,” said Coach Antwon Jones, “like a memory foam almost, a stronger memory foam.”

While all helmets are padded on the inside, Niles High is experimenting with a soft shell concept that puts a layer of padding on the outside.

The one-size-fits-all, helmet cover is light weight, locks on with Velcro, is waterproof and can be washed.

“It’s a light weight material that basically fits over the shell of the helmet to help reduce the impact that kids take in the game,” said Jones. “The kids at first, when they first saw them, they were like, ‘whoa, what is this? It makes my head look huge.’ I was like, well, would you rather have a head that looks huge or get a concussion potentially?”

At first glance, the helmets look like something the Four Horsemen would have worn, but the Guardian Cap is a product of the future—not a tribute to the past.

“Nothing is concussion proof, but what this does is it helps take away that contact that impact that a player would normally get,” said Jones.

It’s only been two weeks since the Niles High School Football team got its hands on the latest in head protection.

Players already seem more concerned about how the devices work than look.

“I picked them ‘scars’ up last game from blitzers and stuff. I couldn't imagine what it would do if I didn't have that on my helmet,” said offensive lineman Cody Thornton while pointing at the torn and ripped fabric of his Guardian Cap. “Takes off a lot of impact than just a regular hard helmet. It's kind of like having a pillow on your head.”

The company claims that the Guardian helmet cover reduces the force of impact by 33 percent.

That’s of interest to Niles quarterback Cody Harpenau, who has had experience with concussion. “I had one last year, I was on varsity last year but I got a concussion the third game. Coach Jones kept me out for the rest of the season.”

Perhaps the Niles High team is more open minded than most when it comes to experimenting with head protection. Last season alone, there were ten concussions throughout the football program.

“We thought it was a joke, but now that we realized throughout these past four games that it’s serious, it helps us out a lot, it takes away a lot and we don’t feel as much impact as we normally do,” said Harpenau.

The Guardians cost about $60 apiece. Right now, Niles High School only has 20 of them.

The goal is to get a Guardian for each and every team member by the time two-a-days start next August.

In the meantime, the guardians were given to players who have had past concussions, and those who are most likely to be hit hard like wide receivers and linebackers.

The team has had just one concussion since it started using the Guardian.

For more information about the Guardian, visit guardiancaps.com/ecommerce/