What’s with those strange helmets the Utes football team is wearing in training camp?

They’re big, they’re weird-looking, but they could be helping to mitigate concussions.

(Hunter Dyke | Utah Athletics) Utah football practices in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Aug. 03, 2022.

Remember the ’80s band Devo? The strange, red, almost brick-like helmets they wore?

Well, the University of Utah football team might inadvertently be channeling the writers of “Whip It” with its helmets during fall camp.

(Hunter Dyke | Utah Athletics) Utah Utes football head coach Kyle Whittingham, right, watches quarterback Cam Rising (7) during the first day of fall camp in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022.

The helmets are “Guardian Caps” — colloquially referred to as “guardians” — and no, they’re not meant to protect the galaxy. They’re meant to help reduce concussions, a growing point of emphasis in football. They feature extra padding around the helmet itself in order to mitigate the trauma of a headfirst hit.

They might look kind of silly. And some Utes players don’t even really see the overall point of them for certain position groups.

“I’m not a big fan of them,” Utes senior tight end Brant Kuithe said Monday. “I don’t really know the science behind them, but I think linemen can get good use out of them because they hit a lot with their heads. As far as the outside goes, quarterbacks and such, I don’t think there’s much use. I guess we’ll have to see when somebody gets hit in the head if they really do work.”

But, while limited, studies on the efficacy of soft-shell helmet caps have been positive. An ESPN article last fall cited a study that tested two add-on caps and how well they reduced the force of an impact. The two caps were chosen by the NFL and the NFL Players Association.

Several tests concluded that there was a 10% reduction of force impact when using the Guardian Caps, per ESPN. When tested on high school players, the creators of the Guardian Cap claimed reduction was up to 33%, the article stated.

Utes coach Kyle Whittingham said Monday said the NFL made the soft-shell add-ons mandatory for its fall camps. So it stands to reason that Utah and perhaps other college football programs will try them.

“Concussion-wise, you’re always looking for a way to curb that through your drill work, through how you structure things, and if you can do it through a piece of equipment, all the better,” Whittingham said. “That’s the whole objective. It’s just like O-linemen wear knee braces because they’re subject to that, quarterbacks wear flack jackets because that helps them. The entire team, other than QBs and specialists, are in guardians.”