NEWBURYPORT — The issue of concussions in football is real, and it affects athletes young and old, inexperienced and professional. Newburyport Youth Football, in hopes of making the game safer and healthier for its players, has invested in new equipment to reduce the harmful impacts of football-related head trauma.
Called Guardian Caps, this cushioned outer layer fits over the standard football helmet, buckling in place.
According to the Guardian Cap website, the technology “brings a soft-shell layer to the outside of the decades-old hard-shell football helmets and reduces the impact the head takes in a hit by up to 33 percent.
Because of this finding, the University of South Carolina wore the caps for practices this past season, and Boston College plans to do the same next season.
“We raised $4,000 from local banks and businesses in town, which should be enough to order most of the Guardian Caps,” said Craig Childs, commissioner of Newburyport Youth Football. “They cost $45 apiece, so we have about enough for every player. If we are short, youth football will pick up the rest.”
While concussion rates in football vary with the speed and intensity of the level of play, Childs said that teaching young athletes to be conscious of brain injuries and their prevention techniques is a worthwhile venture.
“Every year, the kids are bigger, stronger and faster and the concussion rate increases,” Childs said. “We are doing whatever we can to take the proper steps to keep the kids safe.”
While the new technology will undoubtedly make the game safer, it is not the only step that Newburyport Youth Football has taken.
“When I came on board as the commissioner last year, I joined a concussion awareness safety committee,” Childs said. “We have been doing research on ways to make the game safer for the kids. We have a new safety officer to make sure that if kids have concussions or are injured, they aren’t coming back too soon or returning without a doctor’s note. Heads-up tackling has also been a focus of ours. We want the kids to learn the new, safe tackling techniques where your head stays up the whole time. All coaches in Cape Ann League Youth Football will be mandated to learn these new tackling techniques.”