HELENA – The Small Fry Football league in Helena is increasing safety measures this season in an effort to lower head injury rates in young players.
There’s even a new addition to uniforms for every league player. They’re now able to wear “guardian caps” thanks to a partnership with St. Peter’s Health.
Guardian caps are protective, soft-shelled padding players attach to the outside of their helmets. The caps are designed to absorb up to 33 percent of impact from a collision, plus reduce the possibility of concussion and head trauma during practices and games.
Logan Carrell and Payton Tavary are 8th grade players on the Rocky Mountain Computer Supply team. They say the caps look a little funny, and are heavier than a helmet alone.
“The style’s not there, but it helps with the feeling,” said Tavary, a running back who plans to play at Helena High School next year.
But both he and Carrell also say guardian caps help them feel safer, because they know the risks that come with contact sports and concussions.
“Oh, horrible,” said Tavary. “That happened to me in the 5th grade, and I couldn’t play for one week, and it made me really upset.”
More than 400 players have received the caps, which cost St. Peter’s around $35 a piece.
And beyond concussion prevention, doctors and physical therapists say parents and athletes also need to know the symptoms of brain injury.
“Certainly, the more we can limit any kind of brain injury, the better off they’re going to be down the road,” said Shannon Williams, a physical therapist with a certification in neurology. “Definitely we have concerns with repeat injuries, that can cause a lot of long term effects down the road as well. It causes delays in school.”
Symptoms of concussion can include loss of consciousness, headaches, nausea, or personality changes. And Williams says symptoms can even show up hours or days later, so it’s important to keep an eye on your kids.
Research published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association indicates about 20 percent of teenagers say they’ve been diagnosed with at least one concussion.
Almost six percent have been diagnosed with more than one.
For more information on prevention and treatment, visit the CDC’s website.
You can also find out more about Save the Brain Helena, an organization which provides free baseline screenings for student athletes throughout the year.
Reporting by Evelyn Schultz for MTN News