NFL will allow Guardian Caps on helmets during games for 2024 season

NFL will allow Guardian Caps on helmets during games for 2024 season

The NFL will allow players to wear Guardian Caps — soft-shell covers used on helmets — in games this upcoming season, the league announced.

“There is the option for a player to wear it in a game if he so chooses,” Dawn Aponte, the NFL’s chief football administration officer, said in a health and safety webinar Tuesday.

As part of its effort to focus on player safety and reducing head injuries, the NFL began to mandate the use of Guardian Caps for players who play certain position groups during training camp practices in 2022. According to the league, it resulted in a 50 percent decrease in concussions among players who used Guardian Caps.

In response, the NFL extended the mandate to regular-season practices last year. For next season, the league will expand the list of position groups required to use Guardian Caps to running backs, fullbacks, tight ends, receivers, offensive linemen, defensive linemen, linebackers and defensive backs. The use of Guardian Caps remains optional for quarterbacks, kickers and punters.

There have been players who have complained about the Guardian Caps having an awkward fit, but NFL officials believe they’ve become more accepted.

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“I think there was a lot more acceptance this year; you heard less pushback.” NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills said in February. “One of the things to remember is an overwhelmingly large number of Power 5 football teams use Guardian caps already. And so many of, if not most of, the players coming to the league are used to it. So, it’s not as big of a transition for them as it is for veteran players.

“We’ve seen players be motivated by the data and that’s why it’s important that we share it and we do this work collaboratively with the (NFL players’) union.”

In aiming to reduce in-game concussions, the NFL has focused on position-specific helmets, with eight new position-specific helmet models to be introduced this season.

“The growing availability of position-specific helmets is a central part of our effort to provide players with the best possible protection for their position,” Sills said in February. “Quarterbacks and linemen will have a range of tailored helmets available to them with more positions to come in the next couple of years.”

While the use of Guardian Caps in NFL practices has steadily increased in the last couple of years, they were never permitted for use in preseason, regular season or postseason games until now. According to the NFL, Guardian Caps will absorb at least 10 percent of the force when a player wearing one endures a helmet-to-helmet hit. And, if both players are wearing Guardian Caps during a helmet-to-helmet hit, the force of the impact is reduced by at least 20 percent.

The hope is that the potential use of Guardian Caps in games, rule changes such as the revamped kickoff format and helmet advancements will help reduce the number of in-game concussions. The total number of concussions suffered in practices and games in the NFL has increased every year since 2022.

“We want to see them go down,” Sills said. “We’re not satisfied with the number where we are and we believe the game can be continued to be made safer.”

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(Photo: Kirby Lee / USA Today)

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