Nationwide sporting equipment and apparel chain Sports Authority will be selling a new safety device, known as Guardian Caps, for its football helmets at more than 200 locations nationwide. The deal marks the first time that Sports Authority joins with another brand in protective headgear.
The caps, a soft-shell helmet cover that is supposed to reduce head injuries by 33%, will be pushed in stores throughout Texas, California, Florida and Georgia, where tackle football is especially popular.
According to data from the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, participation in youth football has declined by 11% in the last two years, mostly due to concern for head injuries.
Sales data are not available yet, but the Guardian Caps retail at $64.95 for the past two weeks. Sales are expected to boost closer to the beginning of the school year.
"As we inch closer to football season, kids and parents across the country will be going to Sports Authority to buy their equipment and we want them to see Guardian Caps as part of the protection package that they are looking for," said Guardian Caps co-founder Erin Hanson.
Sports Authority will hold an outfitting event for 5,000 youth in Aurora, Colorado, this August that will include a preview for the caps. Similar events are expected in Texas and California, the two states that have the most high school football players participating on a yearly basis.
Last year, a controversial ruling in Colorado made it illegal for players to wear such "third party" protective gear, which is non-regulation and the National Operating Committee for Standards in Athletic Equipment was unclear if it actually helped protect players or not, writes Adrian Dater for The Denver Post.
The ruling came just days following a story in The Post about Colorado schools who used the caps.
"The addition of after-market items by anyone that changes or alters the protective system by adding or deleting protective padding to the inside or outside of the helmet, or which changes or alters the geometry of the shell or adds mass to the helmet, whether temporary or permanent, voids the certification of compliance with the NOCSAE standard."
Makers of the Guardian Cap replied to the allegations saying their product is tested at the same labs that test regulation helmets, with results that meet or exceed standards.
The founders of Guardian Caps report that they are not a main source of income for the company, but merely a passion project. It is reported that the company loses about $10 for every cap sold. The company is hopeful that arrangements like the one with Sports Authority will bring the caps to the public, writes Darren Heitner for Forbes.
The University of Massachusetts, Clemson, South Carolina, Syracuse, and Boston College are already using Guardian Caps.