Swim Cap Startup Aims to Reduce Aquatic Head Injuries
Swimming isn’t the most dangerous sport by any means. But with only a thin layer of latex to protect the heads of swimmers and other aquatic athletes, water sports surprisingly rank among the top 10 sports for head injuries, according to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons. In fact, “water sports account for 30 percent more emergency room visits than hockey, lacrosse and rugby combined,” says Theresa Finn, CEO and co-founder of Plymouth-based Hammer Head.
Founded in 2013, Hammer Head launched its protective swim cap this year after nearly five years of research and development. It’s the first major safety evolution in swim cap design in more than a century, says COO, co-founder and swim instructor David Burns.
Made from silicone and manufactured in the U.S., the cap has a half-inch honeycomb-like cushioned layer on the inside that absorbs impact when swimmers hit their heads on a pool wall or collide with other swimmers. Most head injuries occur during backstrokes, flip turns and swim practices, says Finn. “The company has patents pending in five countries on both its Honeycomb Impact Technology (HIT) and the cap’s design, which eliminates wrinkles that slow swimmers down.
Presales kicked off in February, and when shipping began in early May, Hammer Head had sold about 1,000 caps. “Orders came in from around the world,” says Burns, “including Canada, Australia and China.” The cap sells for $35.
Hammer Head says it is in discussions with USA Swimming, the governing body for competitive amateur swimming. Three-time Olympian Tom Malchow of St. Paul is a spokesman for the company. “I hope this cap becomes a requirement in early-level swim programs,” says Malchow. “I’ve seen the number of times my kids have hit their heads, and it doesn’t take a hard hit to have a big impact.”
Although swimming and aquatic sports are Hammer Head’s current focus, Burns says the company is searching for ways to incorporate its HIT technology into protective gear for other sports as well.