NFL will allow players to wear Guardian Cap helmets in games

NFL tight ends <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Jesper Horsted;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Jesper Horsted</a> and <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Nick Bowers;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Nick Bowers</a> of the <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Las Vegas Raiders;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Las Vegas Raiders</a> practiced last season while wearing Guardian Caps, which will be allowed for players in regular-season NFL games starting next season (Ethan Miller)

An NFL rule change will allow players to wear Guardian Cap safety helmets in regular-season games starting next season, the padded headgear offering better protection from brain injuries.

The move was mentioned in a league webinar on NFL safety and medical issues two weeks ago but was not revealed in a major way until Friday.

"We now have two years of data showing significant concussion reductions among players who wear Guardian Caps during practice so players will be permitted to wear the cap during games this upcoming season," Jeff Miller, the NFL executive vice president for player health and safety, said Friday in a statement.

"Additionally, there are new helmets this year that provide as much –- if not more –- protection than a different helmet model paired with a Guardian Cap. These developments represent substantial progress in our efforts to make the game safer for players."

The Guardian Caps were required for players in certain positions for 2022 and 2023 training camps and have resulted in almost a 50% reduction in concussions for those players who wore them.

Dawn Aponte, the NFL's chief football administrative officer, said in an April 9 webinar that the helmets would be permitted in games.

"There is the option for a player to wear it in a game if he so chooses," she said. "There were a number of clubs that had already required all of their players to wear those."

NFL chief medical officer Allen Sills reacted to the news, saying, "So we might actually see a Guardian Cap on a player in a game this year. That's possible. Great. Big change coming up."

The league had previously not allowed players to use the Guardian Caps during games.

League information gathered over the past few years has found that 10% of the force for any hit to the helmet would be absorbed by the padded cap if used and if two players wearing the cap were involved in the hit, 20% of the impact would be absorbed in the padding.

The NFL and NFL Players Association earlier this month announced five new helmets were approved for the 2024 season after testing better for protection than any other helmet, providing a record 12 helmet models for the upcoming season -- including more position-specific helmets designed to mitigate impacts more likely by those playing specific positions.