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Guardian caps versus concussions

Guardian Caps, padded shells made of polyurethane fabric, fit over helmets to reduce impacts to the head. The caps are in use in 35 states, including Virginia, but there's a controversy over whether they meet helmet certification standards set by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment or whether they are out of bounds under the standards.

The Guardian Caps have compartments padded with foam rubber on top of the helmets to dissipate energy better than does a solid shell. Player protection from brain injuries is topical as helmet manufacturers, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, and the National Football League face lawsuits over concussions.

NOCSAE says that helmet add-ons could void certification, warning that primary emphases should be on limiting unnecessary roughness and on treatment of concussions. Equipment changes are fourth or fifth on the list of things that would make the biggest difference, maybe even further down, says NOCSAE, which uses sensors to measure impacts on dummy heads inside helmets. Helmet makers test each model, and changes require new certification. NOCSAE's position remains that a helmet change in protective padding, in the geometry of the shell, or in the mass of the helmet voids certification of compliance and requires renewed certification.

At the last annual meeting of the National Athletic Trainers Association, a speaker said there is no such thing as a concussion-proof helmet. Helmets prevent fractured skulls, but the brain remains vulnerable, he said, adding that no studies show that extra helmet padding affects concussion rates. So the controversy continues.

Any athlete who suffers brain damage on account of a defective helmet or a negligent coach or trainer may be entitled to compensation for the injury. For help in recovering fair and complete compensation, there is no substitute for a qualified personal injury attorney.

Source: USA Today, "More padding the issue of concussions and better helmets", Gary Mihoces, July 31, 2013

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