SPARTANBURG, S.C. — Training Camp is underway for the Carolina Panthers and the rest of the NFL, and practices across the league are open to the public for fans to get their first glimpse of their favorite team.
This year, you'll notice the helmets look a lot different than in years past, and it's because there's some extra padding on the outside.
Those padded covers you see are called Guardian Caps. It's a padded shell that goes over the helmet and is considered an extra layer of protection for the players.
According to Guardian Cap and the NFL's Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Allen Sills, this padding drastically reduces the forces created when helmets collide. The hope is to minimize future brain damage and make the game safer.
"The basic principle is that providing the extra layer of foam and padding reduces some of the force that would be transmitted through the helmet when an impact occurs... We know there will always be some head contact in sports, players hit the ground and each other. So we're aiming to reduce that force transmitted from the helmet to the player's brain which ultimately leads to a higher degree of safety for the players."
The NFL has mandated the Guardian Caps from the beginning of training camp through the second week of the pre-season for some position groups. However, they're not alone. Multiple colleges across the nation and our state use them as well. For example, App State, UNC-Charlotte, and North Carolina Central University all use Guardian Caps at practice.
There are many high schools that want them too, Dudley Head Coach Steven Davis says, he'd like to see them required for pee-wee players all the way through the pros.
"I think the guardians are great, and I'm talking at all levels...If you can do something to reduce the risk of injuries, let's do it."
At this time, Burlington Williams High School is one of the few programs in our state that has implemented this policy for all practices that helmets are worn.