Evaluation Of Football Shoulder Pads

  • L. Noble
  • H. Walker
  • R. Dorgan
  • D. Deppen
Keywords: sports protective equipment, football


The development of sports protective equipment has been largely the result of trial and error and, with the exception of foot and head protective devices, has not involved the research process. Claims related to football shoulder pad innovations have not typically been supported by relevant objective data. The purpose of this study was to develop procedures and instrumentation for comparison of the effectiveness of shoulder pads. The most important criterion for protective effectiveness was considered to be the prevention of high peak pressures on body parts and tissues underneath the pads. Phase I of the study was designed to determine player perceptions of high-pressure sites following performance of drills on the field using a variety of pads. Phase II involved the development of instrumentation and procedures to directly measure pressure on sites identified in phase I during a controlled blocking drill simulating field conditions. Pressure measurements were taken using twelve pressure sensing resistors (0.6 mm thick and 12 mm in diameter) attached to selected sites underneath the pads. Signal conditioning circuity was developed to provide output from these transducers proportional to pressure. The output was routed to a digital computer via an analog-todigital interface board for subsequent analysis. The measurement system was used to evaluate six sets of shoulder pads representing the use of conventional, closed-cell foam and the use of open-cell foam (one and three layers) with an air management system. Four experienced subjects used each set of pads to hit a blocking dummy several times. Results were consistent with subjects' perceptions of areas of greatest pressure, indicating that: 1) greatest peak forces for all pads were received on the portion of the superior portion of the deltoid, acromion, and superior portion of the trapezius; and 2) pads using open-cell foam with an air management system were superior to pads using closed-cell foam in preventing high peak pressures. This study was partially supported by the Kansas State University Research Foundation.
Equipment / Instrumentation