Father has concerns with Guilford County’s rule on football helmets

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GREENSBORO, N.C. — Chad Winkle’s 12-year-old son has the size and the strength.

“He’s about 6 foot, 240 pounds,” Winkle said. “Big kid, he can push me down.”

Winkle wants to make sure his son keeps his good health as he continues his football journey from AAU to Southeast Middle School.

“He has aspirations of playing college ball,” Winkle said.

That’s why he always wears a guardian cap. It’s a soft shell pad that straps over the helmet to absorb force from hits.

“I don’t pretend that it’s going to prevent every hit from a concussion but I do believe it prevents a lot,” Winkle said.

Guilford County Schools told Winkle his son can’t strap it to the school-provided helmet.

“The device itself is not illegal equipment,” Guilford County Schools Director of Athletics Leigh Hebbard said.

But manufacturers consider it an add-on and that voids the helmet’s safety certification from the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment.

The school system did offer Winkle a personal equipment waiver.

“They want me to buy a helmet and put the guardian cap on there, therefore me assuming the liability,” Winkle said.

He said he doesn’t have the funds to spend hundreds on a helmet right now, so he will have to rely on his son’s technique and school-approved helmet to keep him safe when he hits the field.

“There’s constant communication about how to protect yourself and what you need to be doing as far as blocking and tackling,” said Winkle, of his son.

Guilford County Schools also makes sure schools follow concussion protocols. They make parents, students and coaches aware of concussion symptoms and have football coaches specially trained to teach techniques that reduce the risk of concussions.

“By nature, football is a dangerous sport. No one can argue that it’s not. We try to make it as safe as we can but injuries are going to happen,” Hebbard said.

Southeast Middle School opens its football season Wednesday. Winkle won’t hold his son out so it will be his first time playing without the cap in six years.

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