Practice helmets worn to reduce concussion risk

APPLETON, Wis. (WBAY) -- During the last week of the regular football season for high school teams, the topic of concussions will linger long past the action on the field.

This season, the Appleton North High School football team is hoping what they wear in practice will drastically cut down head injuries.

“Everyone who's playing football, we want to protect them. So we wanted to have one for everyone,” says Rob Salm, Appleton North High School’s head football coach.

That’s why every player in the program wears a Guardian, a protective slip that goes over the normal helmets.

“Having those on your head is a nice thing, because it's like a safe guard for you,” says Darien Peniston, a senior and defensive lineman for Appleton North.

“They basically just allow us not to worry about getting an injury or getting a concussion,” says Jack Vanekeren, a senior and wide receiver for Appleton North. “We can go full contact without worrying about concussions or anything in practice.”

Coaches say the Guardian layer adds extra padding for those hits, and has even reduced the number of concussions this season.

“We've had, I think we've only had, only had one concussion, and that was a hit that didn't involve the Guardians,” Salm says. “So we've seen a big reduction, in comparison to last year alone.”

Action 2 News reached out to area doctors, who say there aren’t any statistics showing that Guardians reduce the number of concussions.

Instead, stats show long-term concussion symptoms increase if they are not looked at right away.

“If they're not treated and taken care of, and they go back to play before they're fully healed, their risk is that much higher and that's when we start looking into those repeat concussions,” says Jason Terry, an athletic trainer at Bellin Health.

While Guardians may provide an extra level of security, Terry says most concussions happen during the game.

Current rules don’t allow Guardians to be worn during the game.

“I think as the safety of the helmets and trying to protect our kids, you’re going to see maybe more of something like this,” says Salm.