NFL to allow players to wear protective Guardian Caps in games beginning with 2024 season

The NFL is expanding the use of protective headgear in games, permitting players to wear padded Guardian Caps if they choose, in a move aimed at enhancing safety. The announcement was made during a recent health and safety webinar, according to a league executive.

Guardian capped helmet

Dawn Aponte, the NFL’s chief football administration officer, disclosed the update in the webinar. “There is the option for a player to wear it in a game if he so chooses,” Aponte stated, noting that several teams had previously mandated their use. The caps had already been adopted in early training camp sessions for most players and extended into regular season and postseason practices last year.

(The video can be viewed here, with Aponte’s remarks at the 37:45 mark.) 

Guardian Caps are believed to reduce the impact of a helmet collision by at least 10 percent, and by at least 20 percent in helmet-to-helmet impacts, offering a significant safety enhancement. The move comes after instances such as Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford’s hand injury in 2021, which he sustained from hitting an uncapped helmet during a throw.

While the decision to wear the caps during games will be optional, the league reports a positive reception from both players and teams. The NFL continues to advocate for the use of position-specific helmets to further tailor protection to individual player needs, based on the specific risks associated with different playing positions. The effectiveness and adoption of the Guardian Caps will be closely monitored as the preseason and regular season progress.


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