Westport is justifiably proud of the Staples Wreckers football team, which in the past four years has had an outstanding record of 43-5, including a pair of appearances in the state finals. Staples is now trying to maintain that record and keep its players safe by using new headgear to protect the players from serious head injuries that occur when playing the game.
Concussions have plagued football players at all levels. Since the suicide of six-time All-Pro linebacker Junior Seau from depression-connected football-related head injuries, the public has begun to notice the dangers. In late August, the NFL settled a lawsuit brought by thousands of former players for $765 million, roughly 8 percent of the league’s yearly intake.
Last spring, the football team received new scientifically-tested caps sold by a company called Guardian. The caps are soft helmet covers that, according to the company’s website, reduce impact up to 33 percent, making head injuries less likely to happen.
Staples head coach Marce Petroccio brought the helmets to Staples after he saw the University of South Carolina Gamecocks and their All-American defensive end Jadeveon Clowney were using them.
“A great percentage of our concussions were occurring during practice,” Petroccio said.
They seem to be working well.
Petroccio noted that the team has been using the caps since June 1, and “so far, there have been zero concussions.” In contrast, during the fall 2012 season, there were eight football-related concussions on the freshman, junior varsity and varsity teams.
While the company has sold over 20,000, Staples is the first high school in Connecticut to use these helmets. Although the caps cannot be worn in regular games because they have to go over the helmet, they are used regularly during practice.
According to the Sports Concussion Institute, 5 to 10 percent of the players will experience a concusion in any given sport.
Staples student Chris Bowles ’16 has sustained his fair share of concussions. As a teenager, Bowles has had six concussions, including four in two years. He said they have kept him from playing his favorite sport, lacrosse. Even though Bowles has stopped playing contact sports because of fears of further injury, he still suffers from the effects of the concussions. He has to visit a specialist multiple times a year to make sure everything is stable, and he lives with a constant ringing in his ear as well as an extreme sensitivity to migraines.
Football is the sport with the highest concussion risk, and fortunately the members of the varsity team have taken a liking to the new caps.
“Playing a position that takes an immense beating week in and week out, it’s comforting to know that the school is taking steps to prevent serious injury and keep me from having any major health issues down the road,” said inside linebacker Jonathon Maragos ’16.