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Guardian Caps: What Are They + How Do They Work?

WriterAubrey McShan
15 min read

Football and lacrosse players of all ages face the same problem: constant head impacts and possible head trauma. Helmets — despite their iconic look — haven’t seen much innovation since the 1960s.

So how can you best protect your child on the field?

You’ve likely seen that bubble-looking padding strapped to players’ helmets in the NFL preseason. These helmet covers are called Guardian Caps. While they may be a newer fixture to the league’s practice scene, they have a rich, proven history of helping make the field a safer place for players.

So what exactly are these caps, and why might your favorite team or your child’s coach want them on a helmet? Learn everything you should know about these helmet covers and more from the experts at Academy Sports + Outdoors!

Key Takeaways

  • What are Guardian Caps? — They are helmet covers made of lightweight urethane that reduce head impact by 33%. They are used by all NFL teams in the preseason as well as over 200 college teams.

  • How do Guardian Caps work? — Guardian Caps absorb and manage energy from helmet collisions, reducing repetitive blow impacts. The soft shell design mitigates both linear and rotational forces on the head.

  • What are the Guardian Cap benefits? — From the helmet cover’s lightweight structure to its one-size-fits-all approach, the cap offers plenty of science-backed benefits that enhance both comfort and protection.

  • How do you attach a Guardian Cap to a Helmet? — Attach a Guardian Cap by sliding it over the helmet, looping 4 elastic straps under the facemask, and securing them in place. Tighten the back velcro strap for a secure fit.

  • Who should wear a Guardian Cap? — Offensive linemen, defensive linemen, linebackers, and tight ends should wear them since they have the highest risk of injury on the field.

  • Guardian Cap considerations — While they can reduce the impact on players’ heads, they cannot prevent concussions. Nothing can: be it a helmet or a helmet cover.

What Are Guardian Caps?

Guardian Caps are science-backed and field-tested helmet covers made of soft, lightweight urethane material that dampens the impact on players’ heads by up to 33%. These caps are one-size-fits-all and attach to and cover a football or lacrosse helmet’s exterior.

But they actually have many more innovative features!

  • All 32 teams in the NFL wear Guardian Caps during preseason training.

  • You’ll also find them in the college football circuit, too! More than 200 college teams require their players to wear them.

Overall, Guardian Caps are integral and continue to be integrated into the future of full contact sports like football and lacrosse.

Guardian Caps shown atop football players’ helmets during practice outdoors on a sunny day

Guardian Cap Results + History

State-of-the-art engineering not only validates the Guardian Cap. It challenges the accepted status quo of current helmet technology and knowledge. The cap pioneers a path toward its hallmark result: reducing the impact on a player’s head!

  • The Guardian Cap is backed by science. Many prestigious, acclaimed labs have tested it: Oregon Ballistic Laboratories, The University of Alberta, Wayne State University, BioCore, & more.

  • The cap has also been tested on the field. In spring 2017, Guardian emerged as the winner of the NFL HeadHealthTECH Challenge I. The comprehensive testing involved the latest research developed by the NFL, including position-specific testing and measuring rotational force.

  • More than 200,000 players have worn Guardian Caps to date! You’ll see them in the NFL preseason training as well as in youth leagues, high schools, & D1 college teams. The NFHS permits the caps in high school practice AND games.

Expert Tip:

Erin & Lee Hanson developed the Guardian Cap initially based on their 20+ years of experience running a materials science company. Together, they’ve put the cap through extensive, rigorous research and testing.

How Do Guardian Caps Work?

The Guardian Cap’s material manages the energy usually generated when two or more helmets collide — also mitigating any repetitive blows. Its soft shell has a built-in energy management system that absorbs both linear (head-on) and rotational (turning) forces.

What are the Benefits of Wearing a Guardian Cap?

The Guardian Cap offers many benefits for full contact sports players

The Guardian Cap’s primary goal is to mitigate the risk of head injuries through a mix of innovative design and user-friendly features. Offering a unique blend of comfort, versatility, and protection enhancement, this helmet cover brings a fresh perspective to player safety.

Let's delve deeper into the special advantages of the Guardian Cap:

  • Lightweight: The Guardian Cap only weighs 7 ounces and feels comfortable while practicing and playing on the field.

  • One-size-fits-all: The cap fits all helmets — from youth to adult sizes and all helmet brands and models. This also means you can keep using it even as your child grows!

  • Soft, pliable material: The unique pads compress when impacted. This reduces the G-force by up to 33%. The cap’s material also has less surface tension than normal helmets.

  • Fantastic for body blows: In full-contact sports like football, the Guardian Cap dampens players’ impact against other players' bodies, too! Reduce these impacts for knees, hips, hands, and more — even in the most intense blitz plays.

  • Easy on, easy off: The cap has four elastic straps that loop around a helmet’s facemask and one adjustable velcro back strap behind the head.

  • Independent movement: The straps allow the cap to shift on the helmet when impacted which helps to redirect that energy.

  • Quiet: The special material removes the famous loud ‘crack’ sound of impacting helmets as well as dampens any vibrations and sound waves.

  • Keeps players cooler: The Guardian Cap lowers static heat by up to 15-20°F. This simply means that it helps make the head area cooler by reducing temperature without any breeze or movement affecting it.

  • Works for lacrosse helmets: The easily attachable elastic straps make this cap dynamic! Attach it to a football or lacrosse helmet.

  • Water-resistant: The helmet cover’s exterior material has a lot in common with Olympic swimsuits, which repel water. Meanwhile, the cap’s interior material is closed cell — meaning it will not absorb water, either.

Expert Tip:

While the Guardian Cap can reduce impact by up to 33%, it cannot prevent any reduction in concussions or other head traumas. Football is a full-contact sport. No helmet or cap can mitigate the risk of these types of injuries.

How to Attach a Guardian Cap to a Helmet

The Guardian Cap flips the traditional helmet design inside out! Padding now goes on the exterior of the helmet with this helmet cover on. These caps simply connect to the facemask with 4 elastic straps and do not affect the integrity of the helmet whatsoever.

To apply a Guardian Cap to a football or lacrosse helmet, follow these simple steps:

  • Step 1: Slide or set the Guardian Cap over the top of the helmet.

  • Step 2: Slip the 4 elastic straps underneath the facemask.

  • Step 3: Secure each strap by wrapping them around the outside edge of the helmet’s facemask.

  • Step 4: Snap each strap in place around the top left, top right, and both sides (usually by the ears).

  • Step 5: Fold the velcro buckles over the snap to secure the elastic strap in place.

  • Step 6: Grab the bottom of the helmet’s shell behind the head. Grip it firmly before pulling the large back velcro strap tight.

Who Should Wear a Guardian Cap?

Certain positions on the field – offensive linemen, defensive linemen, linebackers, and tight ends – benefit the most from the Guardian Cap. It reduces the impact on players’ heads. Worn over the helmet for both football and lacrosse, its soft urethane material significantly mitigates the force from collisions.

An added layer better protects these players on the field since these positions are also all of the positions on or near the line of scrimmage. They naturally have the highest risk of contact on every play.

  • Offensive/defensive linemen: The Guardian Cap absorbs significant force from hits, reducing the likelihood of head injuries, essential for linemen who constantly engage in head-to-head collisions in the scrimmage line.

  • Linebackers: For linebackers, who are at the heart of most physical confrontations, the Guardian Cap provides enhanced protection against concussive forces, reducing the potential for serious head injuries during tackling or blocking.

  • Tight ends: As tight ends play a hybrid role, often subject to hard hits both in-line blocking and catching passes downfield, the Guardian Cap offers significant defense against the elevated risk of head trauma.

Guardian Cap Considerations

Each player will have slightly different goals/needs for wearing the Guardian Cap. Some may need a little bit more reassurance running the field at practice. Others may only want to appease a team or coach’s requirement.

Whatever the reason you choose to wear one, it’s important to clear up any remaining expectations or confusion you may still have:

  • Cannot Prevent Concussions: Although the Guardian Cap can lessen impacts by up to 33%, it can’t guarantee a reduction in concussions or other head injuries. No helmet or cover can eliminate the risk associated with full contact sports.

  • Additional Weight: The Guardian Cap adds a negligible amount of weight to the helmet. Some players may need time to get used to or adjust to this helmet cover.

  • Game Usage: This helmet cover isn't currently mandated or typically allowed for official NFL games, meaning its use is mainly restricted to practice sessions and the preseason. This same rule may apply to your local league/team.

  • Team Identity Obscured: Since the cap covers the helmet, they obscure the helmet's unique design (when applicable), a cherished part of team identity. For raving fans, this may dilute their experience watching the game or practice.

Football players wearing Guardian Caps and orange jerseys wait for the play to begin on the practice field

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you clean a Guardian Cap?

Hand-wash a Guardian Cap in cold water. For especially stubborn dirt or grime, gently use a damp cloth to wipe at the spot until clean. Next, let the Guardian Cap air dry and reapply it to a helmet.

Will Guardian Caps be worn in season?

In early 2023, the NFL expanded the use of Guardian Caps. Players are now mandated to wear them during all preseason training and every practice in both the regular and postseason. However, they are currently not allowed during the season’s games.

Have Fun Out There!

Ready to grab this innovative helmet cover for yourself or your child? Guardian Caps are now a permanent fixture in the NFL preseason (for good reason). They offer many benefits as well as move full contact sports closer toward an even safer playing experience.

Academy now offers these helmet covers! Pick out yours, and break from that next huddle with confidence.