The NFL Requires Use of Guardian Caps to Reduce Brain Injury Risks

Football and helmet with a Guardian Cap attached in front of NFL logo and football field. / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain


The National Football League (NFL) has long been associated with repetitive brain injuries like concussions. Recently, the organization has taken steps to help protect players through a piece of equipment known as the Guardian Cap. Read on to find out more.


If you’ve tuned into NFL preseason activities, you might have been asking, “What are the weird helmets in NFL training camp?” These puffy, outside helmet layers are called “Guardian Caps,” and are designed to help minimize concussions and other brain injuries among football players.

Recently, the NFL has been making conscious efforts to reduce head impact injuries and help players avoid concussions. It has modified rules, adjusted training routines, and encouraged the use of alternative techniques. The addition of Guardian Caps is the latest in the string of efforts to protect players from long-term brain damage.

At the Brain Injury Law Center, we are highly invested in the safety and protection of all people, especially when it comes to serious brain injuries. Our Virginia-based law office provides legal representation for those who have been affected by brain injuries and other traumatic events. Contact us at (757) 244-7000 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation if you have questions about your legal rights with regard to an injury.

Keep reading to learn more about how Guardian Caps will affect NFL players.

What is a Guardian Cap in the NFL?

The Guardian Cap is what is known as an “add-on” piece of equipment — it is a padded covering that is separate from the helmet and goes over the hard outer shell for added protection.

Developed by Guardian Sports, the protective attachment essentially operates like an airbag, absorbing much of the collision and reducing the overall impact on a player’s brain. Data from a recent ground-breaking study shows conclusive evidence that repeated impacts to the head cause Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) in athletes, a condition regularly linked to many NFL players.

NFL athletes have used Guardian Caps in previous seasons; however, 2022 is the first year that certain player positions from all 32 teams have been required to wear them during specified times.

Do Guardian Caps Work?

When worn, the Guardian Cap reportedly reduces the severity of impact by 10% if one player is wearing it. If two players are wearing them, the impact is reduced by at least 20%.

Guardian Sports also reports that the impact reduction could be up to 33% in smaller, slower players (such as those at the high school level).

Many players and coaches approve and welcome the league’s decision to require the use of the caps. “The recommendation of the Guardian Cap was an easy move, said Frank Reich, head of the Indianapolis Colts. “The research just continues to show that the cumulative effects of hits over the course of a long season, it matters.”

Should NFL Players Wear Guardian Caps?

The NFL passed a resolution that requires all linemen, tight ends, and linebackers (positions often associated with more consistent, repetitive impacts each play) during training camps up until the 2nd preseason game.

The greatest concentration of helmet impacts occur during this time of the season. Also, use of the caps for players in those specific positions was chosen because they are considered the most vulnerable in terms of impacts and collisions. They are often associated with more consistent, repetitive impacts during each play.

As mentioned, repetitive head impacts are conclusively linked to CTE, and reducing the impact of collisions can help minimize the effects on players. Other similar issues such as concussions and traumatic brain injuries are linked to long-term damage, such as:

Long-term research and studies are still needed, but initially, the data highly supports use of the caps for NFL players.

“There’s nothing more important than the health and safety of our players and their family, and not only immediate health, but their long-term health.” – Mike Vrabel, Head Coach, Tennessee Titans

What Are Some Reservations or Concerns About the Guardian Caps?

While many players and coaches have accepted the use of the Guardian Caps, a few players have some reservations about them. For instance, some report that wearing the helmet caps makes them feel like a “bobblehead,” and throws them off balance. Some coaches are also concerned about tackling technique while wearing the caps.

Others are concerned that the caps might create a false sense of security and protection during practice. When they are removed for gametime (they are not required during actual gamedays), it could cause them to hit harder or differently because they are used to wearing it.

Even with these considerations, most players are saying that the devices feel lightweight and overall have little to no effect on their play. For most, preventing the risk from repeated impacts outweighs these hesitations about using the caps.

The Future of Guardian Caps

At the moment, it looks like Guardian Caps are here to stay for the NFL, and if anything, the scope of their use may expand in the near future. Time will tell, but already there are various questions about how far-reaching the use of Guardian Caps will be:

  • Will all players be required to use Guardian Caps, not just linemen and other specified positions?
  • Will the caps be required for use during all practices (including regular season, not just the pre-season)?
  • Will they be required for use at the youth, high school, or collegiate levels?

Commanders Coach and member of the NFL’s rulemaking committee, Ron Rivera, said he wouldn’t be surprised to see the mandate the caps expanded in the future to include offseason workouts and potentially practices during the regular season.

Should I Contact a Lawyer If I’m Experiencing Sports-Related Brain Injuries?

As of yet, the use of Guardian Caps is not required for school-level and amateur football athletes. However, the risks of brain injury are still just as real, if not more because younger players’ brains are still in development.

In certain cases, brain injuries from contact sports may be traceable to the negligent actions of others, in which case, legal action may be needed to pursue a remedy. An example of this is where a youth football coach refuses to remove a player from the game who is experiencing concussion symptoms.

If you or a loved one have been injured due to football or other repetitive impact sports, contact an attorney at (757) 244-7000 if you have questions. At the Brain Injury Law Center, we are passionate about protecting the health and rights of those in our communities.

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