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Minnesota High School Team Wears Guardian Caps for Games

By now we’ve all seen those padded Guardian Caps, which football teams at all levels use for practices and workouts. The NFL, which previously mandated them for preseason workouts, now requires their use for practices throughout the season.

But there’s at least one high school in Minnesota that’s taking Guardian Caps to the next level. That would be Park High in Cottage Grove, about 10 miles south of St. Paul. The photo at the top of this page is from their season opener against East Ridge High on Aug. 31. Here’s another photo, followed by a local TV news report on the phenomenon:

Park lost that game. But they won their next game, on Sept. 8 against Burnsville High. It was their home opener, and here’s a shot of them coming onto the field in their Guardian Caps:

You can see video highlights from that game here. (Sorry, I couldn’t figure out how to embed that video on this page.)

Park High’s next game is tomorrow, at home against Buffalo High School.

Obviously, Guardian Caps aren’t ideal from an aesthetic standpoint. But my feeling has always been that safety outweighs aesthetics, and that goes double when we’re talking about kids’ sports.

But game use of Guardian Caps may not be limited to kids. An league exec recently suggested that they could be used in NFL games at some point down the road.

As the use of Guardian caps expands from practices to games, it’ll be interesting to see if the padded accessories start getting adorned with team logos, stripes, and so on.

Meanwhile: Does anyone know of other high schools that are using Guardian Caps in games, as opposed to just in practices?

(My thanks to Charles Kloos for letting me know about this one.)

Comments (32)

    I am curious as to how durable Guardian Caps are. Have there been any reports as to how long the padding stays effective until the Guardian Cap gets replaced?

    (Side note: I can foresee a future where a future football helmet is just the inner padding of an existing hardshell, mixed in with the exterior Guardian Cap. In effect, it would be the leather helmet of the 21st century, albeit with actual padding and no leather.)

    They’ll look like former Buffalo Bill S Mark Kelso, also known as “The Great Gazoo” of Flinstones fame for his protective shell over his helmet.

    I’m sure someone will post pictures since I don’t know how from my mobile phone.

    I recall an offensive lineman for the 49ers also wearing one 20+ years later ago. I don’t know why it stopped, I think people would get used to the look relatively quickly. I have to wonder whether they concluded that the risks outweighed the benefits, perhaps it created stresses on the wearer’s neck or elsewhere.

    I think it just kept “popping” off..
    Crude design…and I bet all the football players looked like The Great Gazoo when they first started wearing shell helmets…

    Someone like Tua with Miami should wear this all the time. I’m sure they can fashion a model with the Dolphin logo and striping.

    They should just get rid of helmets and pads at this point. Players wouldn’t use their heads as weapons anymore.

    Very true, ask anyone who plays rugby. You can play a collision sport safely, and that happens when you no longer feel emboldened to use yourself as a human projectile. I never felt so safe as when I was in full pads in high school.

    If anything I think Guardian Caps would encourage players to use their head more, because they know they have the extra protection. Like how Olympic boxing got rid of head gear, because boxers were continually targeting the head. The only way to have full head saftey, in my opinion is stoge removal of the helmet entirely . American football should take after Rugby, where proper tackling technique is enforced and you’re taught to completely remove your head out of the tackle.

    It is sadly ironic that the study suggests that rugby players live longer than non-rugby players (because of superior cardio most of their lives?) but suffer from more brain issues as they get older…
    Makes me wonder if NFL players have similar numbers

    Pedro, there is a tackle football league called A7FL, which takes off the pads and prohibits hitting. Instead, you have to wrap up the opponent and take them down. It’s an interesting concept.

    I see your point but I remember watching a game where Troy Polamalu gave himself a concussion (knocking himself out actually) while he was tackling someone from behind…

    Any movement toward mass acceptance of safety measures is welcome. But the obsession with creating The Safest Football Helmet Ever is a red herring. Concussions and CTE result from all of the hits bodies take: shots to the head, sure, but also body-to-body and body-to-ground. If any hit causes the head to shake, it’s causing the brain to vibrate. Helmets are what we look at–the brain suffers inside of the “protective” helmet which sits on the head which houses the brain that suffers. But it’s only a portion of what causes concussions and CTE.

    Football fandom demands brutality. Would NFL fans settle for flag football? It’s a great sport–I’ve coached it. Athletic, strategic, fast-paced, intense, celebratory. But absent the pure brutality of tackle football, I doubt that today’s football community would embrace it.

    In short, it’s good that high school kids are wearing the Guardian Caps. At the end of the day, though, it’s a kabuki show.

    I’ve always loved football lol*in spite of* the “pure brutality.”

    Agreed, though, on the thought that safer helmets will lead to safer football. I’ve long equated “safe” helmets with “safe” SUVs. Any small trip on the highway will

    tell you that safer vehicles lead to more reckless driving.

    I wish it wasn’t the case, but I deal with it almost every morning.

    Man you aren’t kidding, really sucks for Truckers these days…then I see motorcyclists that break their own “give me car-size room” and “start seeing motorcycles” rules… another example where helmets can only do so much good

    Let’s face it there are very few differences between gladiator games and football in terms of why it is so popular. People want to see the brutality. They want to see those huge hits. I’m included in that, I hate it about me but I love to see “clean” huge hits, even though I know that player player in life is likely to suffer, just to entertain me and people like me

    Regarding aesthetics of Guardian caps and perhaps us seeing logos, stripes, etc on them in the future: why not put a fabric cover over them, you could use sublimation to make any kind of design you want, and make the caps look smoother and less jarringly different from basic football helmets

    I think that the cushioning needs to be on the outside so that it absobs the impact energy a hard shell will not do that….
    It’s one reason why most NASCAR tracks have styrofoam walls these days…
    Maybe a simple shrink wrap on the outside would make your idea real

    “Does anyone know of other high schools that are using Guardian Caps in games, as opposed to just in practices?”

    I don’t know of any high schools, but Cleveland’s MLB team has been wearing Guardian caps in games for a couple years now.

    Gustavus Adolphus, a DIII college in Minnesota, had at least some players using them during a JV game, although they haven’t done so in a varsity game.

    One argument against guardian caps and older models of helmets that I’ve heard is that the weight of them decreases the players head control on the way to the ground resulting in more back of head to ground incidents. May have been in an article in the Athletic, but can’t remember for sure.

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