Padded caps may look funny, but they're functional

The University of South Florida Bulls are hitting the field with a brand-new look. USF is the latest team to use the Guardian Cap - a padded outer-layer of protection that fits right over their helmets. 

"They look like coneheads," said Bulls Defensive Coordinator Brian Jean-Mary.

"They look kind of funny," said Bulls Offensive Coordinator Kerwin Bell.

Funny, but functional. The name, Guardian, on the chrome dome caps, explains its purpose - to guard against head injuries. The company, however, isn't making claims they'll prevent them. They were first introduced for football players in 2010. USF, like other schools, wanted to first see proof of their performance.

"The research has shown that it helps with is the small, repetitive hits," said Bulls Head Football Athletic Trainer Yuriy Chulkskiy. "The Oline, D-line are those that always get concussed with the small repetitive hits. We've found out that [the cap] disperses about 25% of the force through this."

The company claims there are more than 80,000 athletes now using this extra layer of protection and while Bulls players thought they were funny looking at first, they've given their seal of approval.

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"I know the players feel better with it on," said Jean-Mary. "Sometimes it's more than a mental thing than a physical thing, but if mentally it makes them feel like they're in a better place, I'm all for it." 

The Guardian Caps were first designed with concussion prevention in mind, but teams that are using them are finding that the padded caps have some extra benefits.

"This is not a very hard surface," Chulkskiy said, pointing to the padded cap. "So when there's a helmet that flies into the [thigh muscle] there was an automatic quad contusion. Now it's dispersed, which is leading to less quad injuries."

Chulkskiy believes concussion numbers are still on the rise, so we could see these Guardian Caps used on game day.

"I don't think at this point right now because there's not a lot of research," said Chulkskiy. "A lot of things would have to change for that. Maybe 5, 10 years down the line that might happen."