Vol.2, No.3

Football safety gear explained

Find out how properly fitting safety equipment can lessen the risk of injury to football players.

High school football player in gear
Football is a popular sport that is played in countries all over the world. Football players sometimes begin playing the game as young as age five. Children can participate in football all through primary school, high school, and on through college. Some men make football their life long career. Though this game is fun, challenging, and lucrative at a professional level, it can also be a very dangerous sport. It is rare to watch an NFL game without seeing at least one injury occur. This sport is considered high risk for injury. Players have died or received serious neck and spinal cord injuries as a result of playing the game.

Each year approximately 500,000 kids under the age of 15 will experience some kind of injury related to football. These numbers would be greatly reduced if equipment were properly fitted and worn at all times during play and practice. Proper fit is just as important as having the correct equipment. Football safety equipment that does not fit correctly will not protect the body from powerful hits and tackles. If your child is just beginning to play football it is important to make sure your child's equipment fits well and is replaced if damaged. Encourage them to always wear all pieces of safety equipment at all times.

Helmet

The football helmet is often the most recognizable piece of safety equipment. The helmet has a hard outer shell with protective padding lining the inside. Some newer helmets have inflatable air bags along with the inner padding. Helmets are essential for protecting the head from collisions with other players and the ground. The helmet has an adjustable chin strap that helps hold the helmet on correctly. A properly fitting helmet will sit snuggly over the head and will not move about when the player's head moves. Helmets have a face guard that protects the nose and the teeth from injury. Before face guards were common, many football players suffered from broken noses.

Mouthpiece

The mouthpiece is designed to fit each player's individual mouth. Many of these can be placed in hot water until they are soft, and then placed in the mouth of the player. The player then bites down until their teeth leave an impression in the material. This ensures a very snug fit. The mouthpiece not only protects the teeth, it helps to prevent concussions as well. The mouthpiece can absorb some of the shock from a hard hit.

Shoulder Pads

There are two types of shoulder pads. The kind commonly worn by quarterbacks is referred to as the flat type. These are less bulky and offer better range of motion and freedom of movement. Players that have to endure tackles and hard hits for most of the game wear a bulkier form of shoulder pad. These are more restrictive but offer more protection to the player from the shock of continual blows to the shoulder area. All shoulder pads are designed to absorb the shock from hard hits and falls. They protect the neck, shoulders, and chest. Shoulder pads should be fit to the size of the player. If a player is wearing pads that are too big, they simply cannot protect the body as well as a proper fitting set.

Other Padding

There are other pads that players should wear, depending on their playing position and amount of abuse they take during a game. Blockers typically wear neck roll padding to help protect against whiplash and other neck injuries. Padding is also worn on the chest, knees, elbows, hips, tailbone, and thighs. Gloves can also be considered padding. They are used to protect the fingers, hands, and knuckles of the players.

Athletic Supporter or Cup

This piece of equipment is worn to protect the genital area of the players. Though injuries to this area are rarely life threatening, they can be extremely painful and lead to long-term fertility problems.