Helmet covers offer high school football players added protection

The high school athletic department and booster club found $4,000 to buy every player a helmet cover.

The hard-hitting high school football that fans love is hurting children, and perhaps injuring them for life. This year, schools and parents are competing under new rules intended to keep athletes safe from sports concussions. One Indiana high school is providing players a new layer of protection.

Forty-eight minutes of high school football are punishing enough but days of practice are even worse. Coaches say this is where the majority of concussions occur.

That's where Triton Central High School players are trying something new. Head coach Gabe Johnson said with a smile, "We used them yesterday to test them out."

They are black, heavily cushioned covers that stretch over a hard helmet, providing players an additional layer of protection.

"The padding is going to absorb a lot of the impact they are going to experience in day to day practice," said Johnson To prevent concussions? "At least reduce them," he answered.

Seven Triton Central players suffer suffered concussions last season. The high school athletic department and booster club found $4,000 to buy every player a helmet cover.

They are not pretty, but they are light, about a third of a pound. They're covered with dozens of gel-filled pockets about half an inch thick. They feel like thick carpet padding.

That helmet to helmet, head-rattling crack every player experiences, Dakota Nelson, a receiver, says disappeared.

"When you hit helmet to helmet your head shakes around. But I didn't really feel it," he said.

Guardian manufacturers the cover. Its website shows eggs bouncing off it. The company warns its product can't prevent concussions but can reduce impact and maybe the possibility of injuries.

The new protective gear hits the market as a new Indiana law requires that parents be told about the dangers of concussions and mandates injured athletes be sidelined. That's tough on competitors who don't want to look like quitters.

Jordan Thurman, a senior, has recovered from three concussions.

"Obviously you want to win. Sometimes, you just have to realize when you are do it any more. It's difficult, very difficult," he said.

But necessary advocates say for young athletes to grow into healthy adults.

The helmet cover is not approved for game use. Bobby Cox, the commissioner of Indiana's High School Athletic Association, says every piece of athletic safety equipment, including cleats, pads and helmets, all have to go through a rigorous testing, national certification and approval process.

This helmet cover still new. So far, the manufacturer says only 170 schools across the country using it.