Auburn University using Guardian Caps during practices to protect student-athletes

AUBURN, Ala. (WRBL) – As the NFL makes way for players to wear Guardian Caps during games to reduce head injuries, university athletic departments, including Auburn, are taking notice. Auburn University has used the soft shells since last fall for practices, saying protecting student-athletes is a priority and promise to the AU family.

Tyler Renard, Director of Football Equipment Operations at Auburn University, highlighted the university’s commitment to player’s health,  “Anyhing that we can do to try to make sure we are protecting them to the best of our ability is something we are oing to be interested in and implementing for our players.”

The Guardian Cap, recognized for reducing impact by up to 33%, is a padded, soft-shell layer added to the outside of hard-shell helmets. This innovative design aims to mitigate the severity of effects during practices, similar to safety measures adopted in other industries such as NASCAR and automobile manufacturing.

Renard says when Coach Hugh Freeze attended the SEC coaches conference he was impressed with the information he learned about the Guardian Cap and implemented the additional safety measure into the program for practices.

“We implemented the same policy the NFL had. So, running backs, offensive linemen, defensive linemen, tightends, linebackers – those guys you see with contacts with over and over in practice,” said Renard.

Renard emphasized the importance of proper hard-shell helmet fitting. In 2022 AU began utilizing 3D head scans to ensure a custom fit for each player. This personalized approach enhances comfort and safety, addressing concerns related to head injuries and long-term consequences such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Data-driven insights obtained through the sensor-equipped helmets, enable coaches and equipment managers to monitor and analyze player contact during practices, contributing to informed decision-making regarding player safety protocols.

Regarding adding Guardians to game AU days, Renard says they’ll be watching what happens in the NFL.

“I think the NFL this year will be a good test, and we’ll see how many guys in the NFL decide to wear them in the game so that they have the option – and I think we’ll go from there. We are always trying to educate ourselves and evaluate, you know, what is the best way to take care of our guys,” said Renard.

Looking ahead, Renard expressed optimism about the future of player safety measures in football. He acknowledged ongoing advancements in technology and industry practices. As the conversation surrounding player safety continues nationally, certified equipment experts play a pivotal role in implementing cutting-edge technologies and best practices.

Guardian and NFL Timeline 

2017, Guardian won the NFL HeadHealthTECH Challenge

2020, the Guardian Cap was seen on multiple NFL teams during practices. After a year of data collection and lab testing that showed a “statistically significant” improvement over helmets alone, the NFL permitted Guardian Caps in the 2021 season.

In 2022, the NFL owners announced the league would mandate the use of Guardian Caps during the early part of training camp for all OL, DL, TEs, and LBs.

In 2023, the NFL expanded the mandate of Guardian Caps to include all preseason, regular season, and post-season contact practices while adding RBs and FBs to the list of mandated positions. For the 2024 season, the NFL has again expanded its mandate by adding receiver and defensive backs to the positions mandated to wear Guardian Caps. The mandated position groups now include OL, DL, LB, DB, TE, RB, FB, and WR.

2024-2025, Due to the efficacy of the Guardian Cap in practice, the NFL has now permitted players to wear it, if they so choose, during games

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to WRBL.