BOISE – Bishop Kelly High School is taking extra measures to help prevent head injuries in its football players. Every practice, each BK player wears a soft-shell helmet cover called a Guardian Cap, that is said to help reduce the impact of a hit by as much as 33 percent.
“We took physics into effect and material science and realized that adding a soft cover on the outside of the helmet is the best way to mitigate those forces,” said Lee Hanson, owner and inventor of Guardian Cap.
For four years now, the players at BK have never practiced without their Guardians.
“Kids are bigger, faster and stronger these days and we might as well just try to take as many actions as possible to try to prevent concussions from happening,” said senior linebacker Ben Hruby, who has experienced his fair share of football-related concussions. “It's an experience you don't really, you can't describe. I mean, dizziness, vomiting sometimes.”
Hruby says that with the Guardian -- he can go as hard as he likes without the worry of getting hurt.
“I haven't had one since I've been at BK,” said Hruby. “No one is afraid to go 110% in practice now.”
Fifty Division One colleges and more than 500 high schools currently use Guardian Caps including other local schools like Mountain Home High School. At Bishop Kelly added equipment isn't the only way coaches are working to reduce head injuries.
“They still teach us the right technique about how to hit and get your head out of the play,” said Raoul Johnson, a senior tight end and wide receiver.
“We try to emphasize that we're going to use a shoulder tackle,” said Jack Parker, who coaches the linemen at Bishop Kelly. “Emphasis on shoulder, more rugby-style tackles.”
Parker says this approach to safer tackling isn't unique to Bishop Kelly.
“I think it's been pretty consistent throughout the valley. I think most coaches are doing a really good job trying to do that and been very aware of it, and I don't think the game's ever been safer than it is right now,” said Parker.
For the players at Bishop Kelly, not having to worry about injury leaves them room to focus on what really matters.
“If we get a whole week of practice in, then we're ready for game day,” said Johnson.
Bishop Kelly will open the 2016 football season at home against Kuna on August 26.