Owls add protection to helmets

Wearing the Guardian Cap, added protection for the head, Temple quarterback Connor Reilly drops back to pass during a practice.
Wearing the Guardian Cap, added protection for the head, Temple quarterback Connor Reilly drops back to pass during a practice. (DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer)
Posted: August 21, 2013

Temple defensive tackle Levi Brown doesn't recall much about the concussion he suffered in 2010. He does, however, remember the resulting headache.

"It was awful," Brown said.

He also remembers something else.

"It cost me a game because I had to sit out the next week," said the 6-foot-2, 300-pounder, a fifth-year senior. "At the time, that was my biggest concern. But concussions have become a huge issue. I think I look at [the concussion] a little different now than I did then."

Brown, like so many football players, accepts concussions as part of the game. However, head trauma has received more attention in recent years, and football organizations - from Pop Warner to the NFL - continue to place greater emphasis on their prevention and treatment.

During spring drills, Brown and his teammates were introduced to the Guardian Cap, a padded helmet covering made of a polyurethane fabric designed to reduce impact to the head. The hope is that it will reduce the chance of brain trauma.

Paul Kelly, Temple's athletic equipment supervisor, urged coach Matt Rhule to give the helmet covering a go.

"What it will do is help to lessen the blows to the head that we're finding out contribute to concussions and the long-term dangers of head trauma," Kelly said.

Guardian Cap inventor Lee Hanson claims the cap, first used in 2011, reduces impact to the head by 33 percent. Hanson's material science company, The Hanson Group L.L.C., has seen sales of the $55 cap grow from 8,000 last year to almost 20,000 in 2013.

Other teams also wear them, including South Carolina and Clemson.

Hanson is working on a next-generation cap that he says will reduce impact by 55 percent.

There has been some pushback against the cap, which has yet to be approved by the National Operating Committee for Standards in Athletic Equipment. As a result, last month, the Colorado High School Activities Association banned the cap for games and strongly encouraged state schools not to use it for legal reasons.

"Scientifically, we have proven that this helmet reduces the impact to the head," Hanson said. "But don't just listen to us. Talk to the teams, trainers, and parents that have been using this and find out from them how happy they are with the product and whether or not they want their kids wearing it."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 3.8 million sports-related concussions are reported in the United States every year. Ten percent of all contact-sport athletes sustain concussions, and 63 percent of all concussions occur in football players.

And in 2010, a Boston-based study funded partially by the NFL found evidence connecting head injuries in athletes to a condition similar to ALS.

While the Guardian Cap does not guarantee against concussions, Rhule said the Owls will stick with its use.

"We saw no downside to it," Rhule said. "If it does help, great. If it doesn't, it's the same as not having it. We liked it. We liked it in the spring, and we got good feedback from the players.

"What you want to do is you always want to err on the side of caution. I think that's what we're doing."

That is fine with Brown.

"We don't really think about all the collisions because we're young, and we just love the game of football," said Brown, who noted that his 22-year-old body sometimes feels much older.

"But I'm glad they are looking out for us now. You don't really think about all the collisions when you're playing. But we all know that they are taking a toll."


Contact John N. Mitchell at  jmitchell@philly.com. Follow on Twitter @JmitchInquirer

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