American rules football is one of the most popular sports in the United States and Canada. Each match is filled with thrill, twists and turns. However, with changing time, sports organization has shifted its concern towards the safety of players. To ensure the proper protection of the players, multiple safety gears and equipment have been introduced.
One such crucial and necessary equipment is the shoulder pads that give a broad-shoulder look to the players. The football jersey generally covers the shoulder pads. The pads effectively absorb the physical blows during the matches. They shield every player’s shoulders along with sternum area from injuries. These pads sometimes also guard the arm’s top and the rotator cuff.
The shoulder pads have a hard protective outer shell made from plastic overlying on shock-absorbing foam padding. The players can easily secure the pads with the aid of various straps and buckles. It covers the shoulders and chest along with the rib area and is precisely fitted by measuring the player’s back from one shoulder blade to other with the help of a measuring tape (0.5 inches added later). The shoulder pads are equipped with holes for attaching the neck rolls, rib combo, back and sternum plates. The arch, however, is the principal part of the pad with a curved structure that provides sufficient support.
The pads absorb the shock through deformation and then distribute it through a larger pad which regulates the body temperature of the players during matches and training to minimize injuries. Sometimes the athletes wear the pads having foam cushion on a cotton half T-shirt for better comfort.
Generally, the quarterbacks, placekickers and punters utilize lightweight pad so that it doesn’t affect the line of sight or the head movement. However, other players prefer more massive pads that stay intact after any significant hit.
The football shoulder pads were invented back in 1877 by a Princeton student L.P. Smock. The traditional pads were manufactured from leather and wool that were sewn together to create athletes’ jerseys. Later again, harnessed shoulder pads were introduced that are pulled on over the head and attached at the chest region.
By the 1960s to 1970s, the pads were made from plastic along with foam material. But these pads didn’t breathe and also while protecting the players, it tended to make them dehydrated and led to exhaustion. In the early 2000s, the shoulder pads construction took a leap with the addition of new synthetic fibres. These fibres aid in making the pads lighter and cooler and thus prevent dehydration of the athletes. The modern pads are modified to make them more comfortable and provide better protection along with better ventilation and mobility.
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