New gear allows safer practice for gridiron Badgers

Although these helmets look a little unusual, they’re designed to reduce impact in contact sports. | Courtesy photo

The 60 or so Arkadelphia Badgers are practicing for the upcoming 2023 season with new gear that lessens the blows dealt in football

By JOEL PHELPS | The Arkadelphian

They’re called Guardian Caps, and they’re soft-shelled helmet covers.

The Badger Foundation and Southwest Auto Collection funded the purchase of Guardian Caps players now wear during practice. The players’ helmets are now wrapped in protective padding that is said to reduce the impact received.

Football players will wear their Guardian Caps during each practice, removing them only for game day.

“We take pride in that our kids our equipped and protected to keep our players safe, and getting these Guardian Caps is just one more step in that direction,” Badgers Head Coach Trey Shucker said.

The NFL requires players in certain positions to wear a Guardian Cap during practice, and some experts predict they will be required in game play, CBS reported this week. Concussions among professional football players dropped 50% in summer 2022 compared to the three-year average prior, according to ESPN. Guardian Caps reduce impact by up to 12% of the force of a hit when only one player is wearing one, and when both players are wearing them that impact was reduced by 20%, the NFL reported earlier this year.

Questioned how the players have reacted to the additional gear, Shucker said he’s asked a few of them at practice: “They have all said they can tell a difference, that it helps with tackles and blocking,” he said. “I think the kids have been pleased and feel protected while they’re wearing them.”

Courtesy photo

The top Badger said players have been using them since football practice began in July.

The cost to equip every helmet with a Guardian Cap was an estimated $5,000. The Badgers join several other varsity football programs in Arkansas, including Beebe, Greenwood, Shiloh Christian Academy and Little Rock Christian Academy, among others.

“We’re very fortunate to have them,” Shucker added. “We’re thankful to the Badger Foundation and Southwest Auto to be able to get together and provide them for us.”

The Badgers officially begin the 2023 season at home Friday against the Camden-Fairview Cardinals. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. at Badger Stadium.

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