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June 16, 2021 • Athletic AdministrationCoachingFootballTechnology

Top Equipment To Protect Your Players

Ask around your local football fields what a head coach wants out of their players and the answer will typically resemble the same idea: to get the most out of them. In order to do that, players have to remain upright and healthy. As New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has famously stated time and time again, the best ability a player can possess is availability. 

How do we equip our athletes with that specific ability? Protecting them from sustaining injuries during practice is one step. Another is taking the advancements in technology — whether it be hardware, software, or both — and applying that to equipment that is already being used. 

equipmentCoach and Athletic Director compiled four companies that go above and beyond to protect players and ensure they are providing the availability so that athletes can focus on their other abilities. 

Guardian Caps

equipmentUsed by more than 200 colleges, 1500 high schools, and 500 youth programs, Guardian Caps has shown to reduce impacts during practice by up to 33 percent. This one-size-fits-all padded, softshell layer goes over your typical hard-shell helmet and augments it to make the helmet flexible and soft, and able to more effectively manage energy and mitigate repetitive, cumulative blows. 

“People don’t really appreciate what an o-lineman or a d-lineman goes through. They’re facing impact — not only in a game, and they’re getting 80 plays in a game — but then you see how they practice. The impact on those kids…there’s an impact on every snap of every play,” Matt Campbell, Iowa State head football coach, said in a testimonial. 

Not only do Guardian Caps address the accumulation of daily sub-concussive blows for offensive and defensive linemen, linebackers, tight ends specifically, but they also help extend the life of a team’s hardshell helmets. And, as of 2020, NFL testing validates the benefit of Guardian Caps, and it’s used by linemen during NFL practices. 

In addition to protecting the athlete wearing the cap, it also can also protect the athlete on the opposite end of the contact — lessening blows to knees, hands, abdomen, etc. 

“We train to reduce injuries, we practice smarter to reduce injuries, and we use the best technology available to us to reduce injuries. At Bergen Catholic, we want to put our players in the best uniforms, the best equipment, and take every measure to limit the risks of the game. We definitely believe the Guardian Cap is one of those technological improvements,” Nunzio Campanile, former Bergen (NJ) Catholic High School head football coach said in a testimonial.

GameBreaker

Finding a gap in player safety during the early 2000s, GameBreaker softshell headgear is designed to protect athletes competing in non-padded practices during the tackle football season, 7-on-7 football, or flag football. They partnered with D3O, a company specializing in shock-absorbing solutions, for the GameBreaker-Pro — a lightweight, high-performing soft protective headgear with a five-star safety rating from Virginia Tech. 

With no hard or sharp components to snag or scrape other players, the GameBreaker-PRO reduces the risk of sustaining a concussion on impact by over 75 percent. Even in practice and other non-contact environments, collisions will occur, and without the protection of traditional pads and helmets, the severity of the injuries can be greater than in full pads and have lasting effects.

“One of my best wide receivers took a bad knee right to the side of the head during a passing league tournament. He told me after that if he had not been wearing the helmet provided by Gamebreaker, the result would have been much, much worse,” Robert Frith, former El Toro (CA) High School head coach, said in a statement. 

In addition to its soft shell helmets, GameBreaker also offers under shield practice pads, lip protector mouthpieces, helmet liners, as well as soccer headbands. 

LIGHT Helmets

guardianThe top-rated Virginia Tech flag football soccer headgear, LIGHT Helmet is the only headgear product to ever achieve a perfect score by the institution’s rating system. With the best-ever impact and coverage score, LIGHT Helmet protects your athlete and even others not wearing headgear during competition. 

Its composite shell is light yet strong, and its Armour Foam, initially invented by NASA, absorbs impact instead of redirecting it. Not only do LIGHT Helmets provide better protection, but they can also improve athletic performance. While other football helmets can weigh as much as six pounds, LIGHT Helmets weigh less than three. LIGHT Helmet’s design also makes it easier for football players to turn their heads during the game to maintain situational awareness, track the ball and other players. 

The LIGHT Helmet’s mission is to provide players with better protection so they can compete at their highest level possible. 

“After playing years of football, I had grown to expect a sore neck and slight headache during the first few hitting practices of the season. But with my new helmet, that neck pain and headache never came. The helmet has made playing football more comfortable. I will never go back to wearing another helmet,” Tyler Horn, former NFL wide receiver with the Titans, Texans, and Falcons, said in a testimonial. 

FitPlatform

guardianWhile head impacts cannot be completely prevented, playing with an injured brain could increase an athlete’s risk for severe injury, delay healing times and negatively impact performance. Identifying head impacts may help reduce this risk. 

The FITPlatform attempts to provide sideline staff with as much meaningful impact exposure data as possible. The FITGuard measures linear acceleration and angular velocity. The FITApp then displays the peak acceleration, approximating the direction of the impact. The FITAlgorithm determines whether or not these forces have breached a user-customized impact threshold. If a threshold is breached, an internal audio notification alerts the user, bright LEDs provide external notification, and impact data is then sent to the FITApp for analysis.

» ALSO SEE: Saliva-Based Concussion Tests, Another Factor in Diagnosis?

The FITPlatform measures and displays what is felt by the sensors inside the FITGuard. By housing its sensors inside a mouthguard, as opposed to external to the body, the company is attempting to achieve a high correlation to the center of gravity (CG) of the brain.

It is important to note that the FITPlatform is not a diagnostic tool and does not diagnose concussions.