Augustana Football taking new steps to tackle head injuries
In the age of concussion prevention, Augustana football is taking steps to prevent headrelated trauma to its athletes.
During spring practice in April, the Vikings unveiled the Guardian Cap: a “soft-shell helmet cover designed for impact reduction up to 33 percent” according to the Guardian website. With a slick, honeycomb design, the cap fits snug over the football helmet but can easily be taken off if needed.
“We’re having days now where we’re not allowed to have pads,” head coach Jerry Olszewski said. “A helmet is just a hard surface. When you just have helmets that’s one opportunity where I can have—not so much for the head protection, as much as it is for the other parts of the body when there is a little bit of contact. But I think that for me personally, if there’s any gap that we can help, I want to do that.”
Although there have been a few different concussion helmet designs, the Vikings’ coaches wanted to wait to be sure other teams found the cap as beneficial as a concussion helmet.
“It’s a company that’s just come out in the last two or three years,” offensive line coach Matt Bacoulis said. “So what they’re trying to do is reduce the risk of the initial impact of head-on collisions within the game of football. As different technology came out, a lot of people want to scrutinize it, so [that’s] the reason why we’re ‘late to the party.”
Each cap costs $60.
“They are expensive pieces of equipment,” Bacoulis said. “There is no price to safety, but at the end of the day we wanted to make sure that: it was going to do what it was advertised, had a good rep with the other teams and three, it was affordable for us.”
The caps were not a spur of the moment decision. Taking time to figure out if there was a way to reduce the risk of injury to a player, and how could they prevent it. So far, the caps have worked.
During this year’s spring practice, the Vikings had zero reported concussions. Last year, they had three. It’s too early to tell if the caps have done their job, but if the team can continue to have a fewer number of concussions, they may have found a winner.
Not everyone is convinced about the concussion caps, though. Some players, like junior linebacker and team captain John Waters aren’t cap proponets.
“Honestly I’m not the biggest fan of them,” Waters said. “But it’s hard to turn down the extra protection. I mean they come from a good placement behind them, they’re just trying to protect you. So you can be resistant to them, but really they have your best interest in mind.”
With such a small time frame, it’s inconclusive to know if the caps have helped to prevent more injuries on the field, but so far Waters believes there’s not been much of a difference.
“It’s not what I’m used to,” Waters said. “After playing with them, I really haven’t noticed a big difference, and I don’t know if that’s a good thing, that I haven’t felt more hits, but I don’t think there’s a noticeable change to my performance.”