Football 101: Gear Checklist
If your son or daughter is just starting out in youth football, you're probably wondering why the players look so bulky under their jerseys. As you probably suspect, it's because they wear lots of padding to protect their bodies as much as possible against the effect of the jarring collisions that occur on every single play.
All that equipment is mandatory, and with good reason: it is extremely necessary to prevent, or at the very least, reduce the risk of injury from playing what is generally acknowledged to be a sport with the one of - if not the - highest rates of injury of any your child could play.
So, what exactly are all those pieces of equipment meant to protect your young football warrior from injury? Here's the run-down:
Neck Collar/Neck Roll
Jockstrap and Cup
Thigh, Hip and Knee Pads
Helmet: As you would probably suspect, the helmet is the most important piece of equipment in football. Face masks are mandatory, a visor is optional. Jaw pads can also be worn attached to the bottom of the helmet and provide some protection against concussions.
Contrary to popular belief, most of the football helmets currently in use do little if anything to protect brains from the forces that cause concussions. But technological advances in helmet design, while they may not make concussions in football a thing of the past, have made a significant reduction in the number of concussions a reality. An innovative new helmet called the Xenith X1, which uses air-filled shock absorbers, is currently being field tested by high school and college teams across the country and offers the promise of increased protection against concussion. It will be on the market in October 2008.
Parents should keep in mind the following when it comes to helmets:
An estimated half of all football helmets in use at the high school level have either been improperly reconditioned, have foam padding that has degraded over time, or fit poorly. Only about one in five helmets is new. Chances are that even fewer of the helmets in use at the lower age divisions have been properly reconditioned;
Helmets should be re-certified every year by an approved reconditioner, or discarded after three years of use;
Helmets need to fit properly, examined for damage before each use and worn with an approved mouth guard;
The chin strap, jaw pads and face masks should be adjusted to fit.
The helmet should be cleaned with water only and should not be painted or otherwise altered.
A helmet should not be used if the face mask is bent more than one-eight inch, rusting, or loose.
Helmets should never be used to butt, ram, or spear an opponent because of the risk of catastrophic head or spinal cord injury or even death. Players need to be taught proper tackling and blocking techniques that do not involve leading with their helmet.
Helmets should not be shared with other players.
Neck collars/Neck Roll: Neck collars are often worn by linebackers and defensive lineman for whiplash protection.
Jockstrap and Cup: Athletic supporters and protective cups are mandatory.
Mouth Guard: Mouth guards or "mouth pieces" not only protect the wearer's teeth and jaw, but may provide some protection against head injuries such as concussions. The mouth piece must be worn at all times during play. The mouthpiece must be a highly visible color and is mandatory.
Thigh, Hip and Knee Pads: Thigh pads are the largest leg pads and protect the thighs from collisions. Knee and hip pads as well as elbow pads cushion blows to those specific areas.
Shoulder Pads: Shoulder pads come in two types, cantilevered and flat. Cantilevered pads are larger for players on the offensive and defensive line and linebackers who receive more direct collisions. Flat pads are used mainly by quarterbacks and receivers, as they are smaller and restrict movement less.
Gloves: Receiver gloves aid in catching the football, particularly during cold weather. Lineman gloves have more padding and help protect of all parts of the hand.