This post has no intention of being inflammatory, rather it is a post designed to hold a conversation and create a counter point. I have been bombarded with information regarding this product; since early 2011 I have not been “on board” with this. It is important to note that this product and its PR firm have been good at communicating with me and have listened, but I do find some of the press regarding this product and similar ones is a bit off base. We do need to understand that what reporters and people say – not affiliated with the product – cannot be controlled buy the company. So that being said I have found and have some opinions on the recent spike of press. Take it for what you want. Just know that I am trying to provide information for everyone to make their own decisions.
It began in 2011 rolling into 2012 when Guardian Caps shot me an email about their product. And from the beginning I was not sold on the promises or the theory. It’s quite simple in my estimation; you can wrap an egg up in 45 pounds of bubble wrap and if you shake it hard enough the yolk will still move or even break. Essentially that is a concussion in an “egg-shell”. Sure, the bubble wrap will stop all linear forces from cracking the shell and even prevent it from moving with those linear forces, but what is it doing to for the acceleration and deceleration of the concussion? Moreover, even though it may be very light, we are adding mass to the head, thus we are creating a fulcrum change and balance change. If you read here enough you know what I am talking about.
However, I have seen fellow athletic trainers rave about this and plenty of teams/coaches/schools adopt this product and even consult me on it, so I thought I would do my best to get the most information possible, on my own. This company was willing to provide me with all the information they thought I needed, so good for them. It really came to a head recently, while in the midst of the NOCSAE statement on 3rd party add-on’s, I received this email from the company;
I wanted to drop a line about both the Aug 9th article “NOCSAE Press Release Clarifies” and a short picture of our product and company as a whole. Thanks for all your hard work with The Concussion Blog. It is a valuable resource and you do a great job presenting an educated, unbiased view.
About NOCSAE certification:
- If companies want to sell equipment that alters the original tested/certified helmet THEY or the individual must re-certify each helmet model it is placed on – adult and youth separate but not sizes.
- Yes, but only if the helmet manufacturer declares its NOCSAE certification void by the use of an add-on. None of the helmet manufacturers have not issued any statements with this declaration. Since they are the only” ones able to declare the certification void, the certification stands. This is not our interpretation. It’s the interpretation of the NFHS (see attached letter to Guardian owner Lee Hanson). I think you already understood this, based on the “Also I have not read anywhere where this will be deemed “illegal” and helmets cannot be worn if there is not the re-certification” paragraph, and I appreciate your interpretation and keen observation that these statements center on the liability aspect. However, most of the consumers that we speak with are confused that it is about safety, which is a shame.
- After re-certification the third-party is now responsible for the liability of the helmet, basically indemnifying the helmet maker and NOCSAE
- Yes. We are working with NOCSAE to find a way to re-certify with the Guardian and are prepared to accept liability for the helmet + Guardian combination when this process is completed in the future (more on this below).
Wouldn’t it just be easier if we tested according to NOCSAE standards and became certified? Yes. Of course. We’ve been asking for this since before we started selling the product and were ignored or denied until these statements came out roughly one year and seven months after we entered the marketplace. However, it isn’t a matter of the lack of resources or the fact that we are ignorant to the importance of NOCSAE certification and hedging liability. It is a matter of the NOCSAE testing protocols being so rigid and specific that we cannot test according to them. It’s a linear drop test. Yes, we’ve done many a linear drop test and we are below the threshold of 1200 SI. But NOCSAE is careful to distinguish the helmet from the face guard and requires that helmets be tested without face guards. How are we to test the helmet + Guardian combination for certification if we only attach to the faceguard? Herein lies the issue at hand.
We’re talking with NOCSAE to find a way to certify the Guardian to their protocols so that this will not be an issue. Why the other companies (sensors + other add-on padding companies) have not sought NOCSAE compliance before now is beyond me.
As far as our product and company go:
I know that you’ve taken issue with things about us before and I don’t blame you. The Athletic Trainer, and especially you as an advising ATC due to your blog platform, are responsible for doing due diligence and making sure products are safe and/or effective before implementation. We definitely have a ways to go in collecting outcome data to support the product. We believe that we have solid biomechanical data that shows that the Guardian could potentially help. We do not know to what extent. What most do not realize is that to acquire such outcome data, you have to have a product that warrants the time, energy, and expense of a third party to evaluate it.
I understand your skepticisms and requests for more data. We’re working hard to get it for ATCs around the country that feel the same way as you do. Ron Courson at UGA is in the same boat and I appreciate the honesty and due diligence. Hopefully we’ll be able to have it sooner rather than later. Other ATCs and physicians feel that we have enough biomechanical data showing that the Guardian does not add risk and are implementing thinking that it will help and interested to see how far it translates, if at all, to reduces injuries for their athletes.
In the meantime, we’ll market the product as what it is: an impact reducer. We work hard to try and get an overall image that does not convey that the athlete is protected from a concussion.
Lastly, we realize that equipment innovation can only go so far. We feel that the Guardian is just a small piece of the overall protection plan. Other aspects are more important, especially diagnosis, return to play, and technique.
Best of luck this season and keep up the good work on the blog.
National Sales Coordinator
I truly appreciated Matt reaching out to me, it was very cordial and very honest. However the last emphasized portion (italics) of his email struck me; if they are working hard to not get an overall image of concussion protection then why do they allow stories from the press that paint that picture? At least write it and have them correct or provide some dialogue from the company distancing themselves from this. In my opinion, I do believe the company isn’t trying to sell this as concussion abatement, but it sure looks that way. You know what they say about perception…
“Hey, mom, we have these new igloo caps in football and they reduced concussions by 80%,” reported a 5th grade, first-time football player to his mom in a local town in Fairfield County.
Two weeks ago a local paper ran a very misleading article concerning Guardian Caps in which the Guardian Cap was called “concussion caps” multiple times and the caps were “concussion prevention.” The reporter continued to summarize their use as “It is probably overstatement to suggest the difference is getting hit by a truck as opposed to getting hit by a pillow.“
Over the last two years, I have had “communications” with Guardian Caps about the way in the past they have marketed this product with sometimes less than factual detail, and so I called Guardian about this article. My concern was that now the flawed newspaper article was on the internet and would be googled and read by some parents as fact. Guardian said they did not supply any information to this reporter and they agreed it was poorly written piece, but there was nothing they could do about it.
The Guardian site now has a clear warning in the footer of every page; “*No helmet, practice apparatus, or helmet pad can prevent or eliminate the risk of concussions or other serious head injuries while playing sports. Researchers have not reached an agreement on how the results of impact absorption tests relate to concussions. No conclusions about a reduction of risk or severity of concussive injury should be drawn from impact absorption tests.”
Under the Science & Facts section of their website, Guardian has just one quote in the “What Experts are saying section,” with no author mentioned here other than the source is a October 10, 2012 blog post from “McGill University Physics Professor Review “Newton’s Cradle: Colliding Football Helmets: Physics 101″ ; and below the quote, Guardian has posted, “This is an individual’s opinion and has not been substantiated by any scientific study.”Guardian stated there was nothing they could do about the article so I then wondered what the high schools mentioned in the article knew of the issues around Guardian so I decided to contact those schools. I wanted to know if schools understood the limitations and the possible liability issues around using an add-on product and if they had notified the parents and the student athletes. I emailed the schools – see my original email and all source documents with links are below (thanks to several people on this list who reviewed and helped me with this effort).
My first concern was if the schools know Guardian Caps does not have scientific research to support that it can prevent or reduce concussion. No helmet or device attached to a helmet can prevent a concussion at this point in time. I supplied the schools with a number of advisories by NOCSAE have been issued on these products. Links below.My second concern was regarding the potential liability to the school district by attaching this product (which is called a 3rd party add-on) to the football helmet. By using the Guardian Cap, schools may possibly void the helmet manufacture’s warranty and void the NOCSEA certification. I provided the schools the NOCSAE advisory that had been issued on these types of “3rd party add” products. This is an issue in Colorado and some Colorado schools who have been using the Guardian Caps since 2012, are considering banning its use.
What I discovered in contacting the schools is not only are high school students now wearing these caps, but in some places Guardian Caps are being used on middle school and elementary students as young as third graders who playing tackle football. Guardian only began shipping product in the Spring 2012, and so there is only one year of experience using these caps on high school age students. Before research is even begun on a large scale to test what effect this cap has on high school players, the product is now being worn on more vulnerable brains and smaller bodies of kids as young as third grade.
I wonder how these parents would feel if they were at an amusement park and their child was offered an unproven safety device to wear on a roller coaster. They would be assured that other kids said the device felt good when they used it, but there was no scientific research that stated the device definitely worked or whether it caused any harm. Would parents agree to try an unproven safety device to see if it helped? And what about using their child as a test case? I believe it is rather frowned on to experiment with children as subjects.
In 2009, I bought my 6th grade son who had suffered two concussions a $250 “concussion proof” helmet for lacrosse to “protect him against concussions” as the sales clerk promised this new helmet would do. He lasted twenty minutes in a practice before illegal hit sent him backwards and he hit his head on the ground for his third concussion. I sent my son back into a contact sport thinking he was protected. Based on the marketing language on the box and the sales clerk, I made a decision to let my son play. Marketing is not the same as scientific research.
I believe that parents and children using the Guardian Cap should be notified by their schools in writing and sign-off they understand the limitations and liabilities surrounding this product.
From my experience, these schools have staff who promote and believe in concussion education, and I believe the staff ordered these caps in an effort to help, not hurt kids. But have these caps been oversold to coaches and parents as “concussion caps” as the article states? And there is also concern from some ATs and experts in the concussion field that children will be less likely to report concussion symptoms because they believe they are protected or believe it would be wimpy to report if they have on something meant to reduce concussions. Will parents will be less likely to take their children to doctors if they believe this covering can protect their child’s brain? What about possible neck and spine injuries as helmets with the caps collide? The answers are unknown. It will remain to be seen whether this product helps, hurts or has no impact in this informal experiment with these athletes, some of whom are only 8 years old.Katherine Price Snedaker, MSW
Kathrine provides some great opinion and good “detective” work on this product, as she does with just about everything she puts her mind to, and I value her perspective. Her concerns and thought process in the concluding paragraphs are exactly some of the issues I struggle with. Not only for this product but others a kin to it.
So with that I decided to take Katherine’s advice and see what the experts were saying, so I followed the link and went to the website and tracked down the ONE expert statement. What I found was a rambling, complex, disorganized post that basically used huge words and formulas to become a white paper for the promotion of this product. This post was also written in 2010, two years before the product went to market and this piece is based on only a paper provided to them. To top it off, there was not an author of this post, no name no one backing the information provided; as though it was a paid for content by an advertiser or worse, it was made by someone who had the vested interest of the company and product.
The experts I know and trust have all felt the same way I have regarding supplemental exterior helmet protection. It makes sense that padding more would be helpful but when one does that it changes the dynamics of the Physics.
In conclusion, this product may in theory be something that could reduce the liner impacts, especially the low-speed variety. Heck I will even give the benefit of the doubt on the surface of the product – when new – that it may provide less friction. But, now it is possibly producing more angular/rotational forces with the deflection; you know those pesky forces that move the brain inside the skull causing the shearing and acceleration/deceleration. And if the coefficient of friction is increased, then you have issues with the neck in collisions (can you see the confusion and issues?).
I value the effort of this company and other innovators looking for ways to protect those that play sports. These companies need to be mindful of the other end of the spectrum and what perception can lead to – ask the mouth guard companies about this.
The real question that needs to be answered here is this; does this product provide further and needed protection for my son/daughter/players at the cost? And my answer to that question is simply, no, at this time.