It is interesting to observe how athletes approach the potential for injury in sports. Some sports, such as ruby, are played with almost no protection, at least relative to the potential injuries that can occur. In such sports, pain and suffering considered simply part of the game, a badge of honor that you played well and didn’t back down. Other sports use rules to protect the players. Soccer, for example, uses minimal protective equipment, but the rules prevent the players from hitting or otherwise hurting each other. (Or at least, the rules do this in theory. Some soccer players are notorious for taking matters into their own hands, or cleats.) But some sports seem to feel that the more physical protection a player has, the better. American football is perhaps the most spectacular example of this approach to player safety, as it covers the entire body of the player with pads and other sorts of protection.
It makes sense that football players wear helmets. The sport often involves violent impacts with both other players and the ground, and the head is the most vulnerable point on the human body. A football helmet actually consists of a number of different parts, all of which are designed to protect specific portions of the head. These parts include the overall shell, jaw pads, face mask, chin strap and mouth guard. However, despite all these different levels of protection, head injuries still occur in football with relative frequency.
Football shoulder pads consist of a hard plastic shell with shock-absorbing foam padding between the shell and player’s shoulders. This piece of equipment is donned over the head and rests on the shoulders, protecting them, the chest and the ribs. It is these pads that are responsible for the typical appearance of football players, i.e. broad shouldered. Shoulder pads, like helmets, are designed to mitigate the brutal hits a player is required to take in order to play this sport. The foam padding absorbs the impact and the plastic shell distributes the impact’s force, making broken bones less likely. Football shoulder pad designs vary according to the player’s position. For example, quarterback’s pads will be lighter and less constricting to allow him greater speed and freedom of movement.
Many football players might consider the jockstrap to be the most important piece of protective gear used in the sport. While a typical jockstrap is designed to simply support, one intended for use in football often has an impact-resistant cup that will, to some extent, protect male genitalia. Interestingly, protective jockstraps are not always required in football; the preference seems to vary according to team and individual.
The pants of a football player do not escape the sport’s signature padding. The interiors of these pieces of clothing contain a total of four pads, one for each thigh and one for each knee. These pads are removable so that the pants can be washed without the pads warping. Each pad is inserted into the pants via pockets on the insides of the legs. Although human legs are fairly sturdy compared with other parts of the body, there is always the potential for injury. Padded pants help football players avoid injuries like dislocated kneecaps, albeit not always successfully.