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The Soft Shell

Since nothing can prevent or reduce a head injury, what can we do?  We realized, we can reduce the impact the head receives when hit.  For a designer, the message is simple: reduce those acceleration forces.

Physics says that an outer “soft” material of the proper density, stiffness and energy absorbing properties reduces the initial severity of the impact. The hard shell then has lower forces transmitted to it, and in turn conveys lower forces to the interior soft helmet padding and then lower forces to the head.

Cedar Park Christian (WA). Credit: Kevin Johnson Santa Cruz Sentinel

Think of it this way

You are a NASCAR driver.  Coming out of turn 4, you lose control. As you careen towards the wall, do you want to hit the hard wall first, with some cushioning behind it? At 200 MPH?

Or would you rather have a soft wall technology that slows down the rate of deceleration, making your collision much less abrupt (and even at 200 MPH, smoother)?

The concepts behind the Guardian Cap, that of greater deflection and time extension during deflection, are the same concepts that convinced NASCAR and other forms of racing to adopt soft-wall technology.  For this same reason, your car from the automotive industry has soft bumpers and air bags.

The Guardian serves the same purpose for an athlete’s head—a soft shell barrier between it and impact.

The Testing

The Guardian Cap was developed by Erin & Lee Hanson who have over 19 years of experience owning their own materials science company.  As a result, it can be no surprise that the Guardian Cap is backed by great research and state of the art engineering—resulting in excellent technology to reduce impact on a player’s head.

We’re proud of our science.  Testing of the lightweight, soft urethane Guardian Cap was conducted in the lab and on the field.  The Guardian Cap has been tested in the lab at Wayne State University, Oregon Ballistic Laboratories, ICS Laboratories, Advanced Technical Research, and Bureau Veritas.  Purdue University Neurotrauma Group should be releasing a study surrounding football helmet testing that will include data on the Guardian Caps’ performance.  Emory University in Atlanta conducted a small scale study analyzing injury rates of a group of high school football teams outfitted with Guardian Caps to a control group not outfitted with Guardian Caps. The University of Alberta department of mechanical engineering studied Guardian Caps in 2016 with an expected paper to be released in the middle of the year.

Guardian also won the NFL HeadHealthTECH Challenge I in spring of 2017. The enhanced testing will include the most up-to-date research that the NFL has been influential in developing: position-specific testing and rotational force measurement. This additional information will deepen the validation for an already commercially available product, as well as guide us for future upgrades to the product.

Interested in seeing some of our test data?  You can email us for all of our testing data, we’re happy to share.

The Guardian team is always open to more research on the Guardian Cap to further build on the current base of research and continue to bridge the gap that exists between biomechanical testing to the end injuries. Until the gap is bridged, claims will be held only to what has been empirically proven.


*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.