Each sport has its own unique equipment fitted for it which players put on to play the sport effortlessly, comfortably, and safely. Football equipment consists of protective equipment worn by football players to protect them, their body, and any part of their body while the football game is being played. Major and popular equipment worn by many football players worldwide are the helmet, shoulder pads, shoes, thigh and knee pad, gloves, shoes, jockstrap, mouth guard. In addition to these, at the players’ discretion, neck rolls, elbow pads, tailbone pads, rib pads, hip pads, and other necessary equipment effective in the protection of their body may be worn. For the ball, the protective material is made out of synthetic materials like foam rubbers, elastic materials, durable and shock-resistant molded plastic. This equipment has been used consistently over the years for decades although changes and alterations have been made to make the equipment better and safer. Maintenance of the equipment and gears lies in the hands of the equipment manager employed for that main purpose.
As a result of the many activities engaged in during the football game, players are required to be as protected as possible to prevent serious injuries. This implies that every single gear of the average football player is such that it protects every part of the body. No part of the player’s body is left untended. His head, eyes, shin, thigh etc. are all seen as important and, therefore, should be protected. So, footballers are thickly kitted with extra paddings in the clothing where necessary. Medical personnel are employed and made ready on hand should it happen that an accident occurred on the field one way or the other. When accidents happen, players are substituted and are not allowed back unless the injury has been appropriately treated and the player has the physician’s report that he is fit to play.
Necessary measures are to be put in place to make sure the game play of football by players are as safe as possible. For this reason, the NFL (National Football League) has postulated some set of rules that are meant to see to the utmost safety of their players.
In professional football, the helmet used by the players are of many distinct parts consisting of the shell, jaw pads, abdomen and bladders, face mask, and mouth guard. Each part of the helmet is made of different materials and are generally used to protect the face; neither parts are for decoration. The face mask is made using one or more metal bars and they are worn to protect being hit in the face by the ball. The shell is made of hard plastic with very thick pad on the inside; There’s a chin strap put in place to hold the helmet firm. Helmets are a compulsory requirement at every level, professional or otherwise, of football except when the game is that of the non-tackle variation like the flag football. And, although the helmets do protect the players, this does not save them from accidents as players are still liable to suffer head injuries like concussion perhaps from a hard fall or being hit hard on the head by the ball. Each team chooses the color and type of helmets they will use; it is their logo and instrument of identification.
Face masks and straps are of different styles and each player is allowed to choose whichever matches their taste. Quarterbacks usually choose masks that are more open and through which they can see clearly. Each position in football has a different type of mask that suits it. The variations in the types of helmet being used is based solely on the part they are playing. As such, there are up to fifteen different styles of the face mask. There are face guards recently introduced in the helmets which are put there as shock absorbers which help in reducing impacts on the face guard.
The National Football League postulated that every helmet must have a headset and the headsets should have a green dot on the back which is very visible. Only quarterbacks can use wired helmets so, as a result, other players cannot use the quarterback’s helmet. In the early days of football, the first helmet radio transmitter was invented by John Campbell and George Sarles in 1956. Both of them came to the then owner of Paul Brown, Cleveland Browns, and asked him to install a radio in side George Ratterman’s (who happens to be a quarterback) helmet. Unfortunately, he couldn’t play well as a result of the many interferences from the new addition to the helmet. So, it was outlawed by the NFL commissioner then, Bert Bell, after they tried using it like that for three games. Later on, in 1994, the NFL allowed dummy communication in games played at regular seasons.
Now, the helmets are made to have small speakers in each of the two ear holes. Coaches of the quarterbacks and coordinators of the offensive players on the sidelines are able to talk to the quarterback through the radio. This way, giving him specific plays and options became possible. Some old school players may argue that this is an unfair advantage created for the quarterbacks, but it was established that the radio helmets allow for clear communication between the coach and his players, even when they are in large and very noisy tournaments like the Super Bowl game.
Rules made up until 2006 made it look like an unfair advantage was being created in the game. So, the new rules tried to solve this by postulating that each team be aware of which player is wearing a headset and which of the players can hear the plays that are being called.
Shoulder pads serve two functions for a football player: they serve as shock absorbers helping to absorb some of the shock impacts through deformation which a player is liable to receive on the field and, also to get the shock diffused through the bigger pads designed to regulate the body temperatures of football players during games and practices. This protects them against avoidable injury.
The shoulder pads are made out of very hard plastic outer shell and foam able to absorb shock padded underneath. They are webbed tight and, on impact, they tend to deform. The pads are made to fit perfectly over the players’ shoulders, chest, and rib area. They are also secured with lots of snaps and buckles, like the helmet. The broad shoulder we notice in football players are actually as a result of the many paddings on the shoulder pads they are putting on. Each player takes measurement from one shoulder blade to the other to fit. The measurement is taken with a measuring tape made with soft cloth and then a half inch is added such that it won’t be the exact size. Sometimes, shoulder pad cushions made of foamy rubber over a half-tee are worn with the shoulder pads for more comfort and ease of carriage.
Jockstrap or athletic supporter
In a professional football game, the typical jockstrap used is made of a wide elastic waistband supported by a pouch of cotton or elastic to hold the genitals of the player. To the basal area of the pouch are two reasonably wide elastic straps affixed and, also to the left and right sides of the waistband at the hip the elastic straps are affixed to complete the jock. In some other types of the jockstrap, the pouch may be made to fit with a pocket so as to maintain hold on the protective cup added to it for the purpose of protecting the testicles and penis from injurious impacts. The cup is required by many youth football players. In high school, college, and peewee level, however, they are not really worn although they are definitely recommended. Every player with testicles and penis to protect should protect them especially in games and sports with inevitable injury occurrence like the American football sport. The jockstrap predates the sport itself i.e. it came into existence even before the football game came into existence. Charles Bennet, owner of the sporting goods company in Chicago, Sharp & Smith, invented the bicycle jockey strap in 1874. He created it for bicycle riders – i.e. bicycle jockeys as they used to be referred to. Eventually, other athletes, having seen the sense in the creation, adopted its use in their sports. By 1902, so many clubs and sports had claimed the garment. It is now even medically advised for all males who engage in sports or any harmful activity to use the jockstrap (also known as athletic supporter).
Jerseys and pants
Jerseys and pants are worn mainly for the identification of players by their names, numbers, and also their team colors.
Pants: are made out of a combination of nylon and mesh for when practicing in the hot weather, and nylon and spandex so that it fits tightly for games. The nylon and spandex is usually made with the teams’ preferred color. Majority of players’ pants are made with the conventional lace-up fly to act as zippered fly although this is not practical and it is subject to damage owing to the stress encountered during the roughing and tumbling in the game. The inward parts of the pants’ legs consist of pockets, four individual ones, which hold two thigh pads and two knee pads – one for each leg. The pads are situated in the pockets before they are put on. They are worn in the locker room. Then, naturally so that they won’t fall off, the pants are secured with a belt. Sometimes, the belts are made with the traditional metal buckle or, sometimes, with several rings. Celebrity athletes gain a lot of money from their jerseys and pants because they are regarded as collectibles and some people would kill to have them.
Jerseys: jerseys are usually made of nylon at the front and back although spandex side panels are included to keep them taut. The essence of this is to make it difficult for opponents and rival players to be able to use the jersey for leverage by grabbing it. For the purpose of the jerseys to be realized, extensions are added at the bottom such that the extension wraps around the jersey from the back to the front keeping it tucked in. Inside the waistband of the pants is Velcro matching with another Velcro at the rear of the jersey. If it is raining, players do change their jerseys during the half time from their collection of practice jerseys and game jerseys which had been given to them prior to the time of the match. There may be patches on respective team’s jerseys fixed either to the shoulders or other parts of the cloth. The patches may be the American flag, team logo, player’s chosen number, or any other important thing.
Footwear, Cleats, or Turfs
This is a very important gear for everyone who plays football. The game gear wouldn’t be complete without it. As a matter of fact, the game cannot happen unless the feet is protected with the footwear.
Football footwear have some similarities to soccer cleats. Football footwear has soles that have spikes called ‘cleats’. The cleats are with purpose; they are designed for the specific purpose of playing the game on the grass. Some of the footwear have removable cleats that can be screwed into or unscrewed out of specific holes. Footwear is made to fit the player wearing. The sizes change depending on the conditions of the pitch upon which the game is played. For instance, there are longer cleats and they are made to provide better footing on a wet field while shorter cleats, on the other hand, are made to provide the player with greater and higher speed on a dry field. There are also shoes with flat bottoms. These ones are called ‘turfs’ or ‘turf shoes’. They are worn on an artificial turf because of the lack of the natural soil. Since there is no friction and grip is artificial fields, the turfs are designed for better footing of players on the artificial fields so that they don’t trip and fall.
The socks worn by football players are not like the ones worn to school by students. They of more quality material with stronger make up. This is because of the many activities done on the field with the leg. The football is majorly played with the leg so, along with the footwear or cleats or turfs, the sock help protect the leg from avoidable injuries. This doesn’t mean, however, that they cannot still be injured. But, the chances of getting injured will be reduced by much. Football socks are usually very long because they are expected to cover the shin guards.
Other pads needed and used in football game are hip, tail, thigh, and knee pads. Each pad is situated to protect the regions in which they are placed. Hip pads are quilted and are one of the earliest pieces of the football gear made for protection known. This method of quilting the hip pad dates back to the 1890s. However, today, hip and tailbone pads are usually made of plastic and they are made for the sole purpose of protecting the hips and, not the hips alone, the pelvis and the tailbone also. The making of the pads is such that they are inserted into the pockets of the gear a player wears beneath his football pants. On the other hand, the tail and knee pads are made of plastic and put inside the players’ pockets which are located right inside their pants.
In the early days of the football game, before the inception of helmets, players were known to put on nose guards (also popularly referred to as nose masks or nose armor back then). And so, because there were no helmets, the game was seen as one of the most dangerous most brutal sports. This is understandable because, with the way the sport is played, all the attacking, pulling, and dragging, without helmets to protect the player had the tendency to cause even fatal injuries. So very many serious injuries occurred at the time, even deaths were seen as occurrences that happened very often. Later on, the helmet was introduced. The first player to wear an equipment protecting his face during the game was John Cranston, an All-American center player. He had a weak nose and, to protect his nose, the captain then, Arthur Cumnock, invented a device which he (Cranston) used to play the game. Arthur Cumnock termed the device ‘nose armor’. His invention became very popular. By the year 1892, many newspaper publications published articles describing the popularity of the game. The more recent and commonly used version of the nose mask was invented by Percy Langdon Wendell.
Shin guards are worn to protect the player’s shin. During the game of football, there will be many occurrences of kicking which is common in football. In a bid to kick the football, the player may kick at another player in the shin. And, considering the strength of the sole of their footwear, one hard kick is perfectly capable of causing a dislocation. So, to prevent injuries such as dislocations, shin guards are worn. Sometimes, the kicking may even be intentional especially when the opponent of a player wants to hinder that player from getting the ball or he wants to make him lose possession of the ball. The shin guard is also regarded as a protective equipment required for every football player.
The American football is usually oval or spheroid in shape and made with leaders gotten from the hide of a cow. As such, the material is a mandatory requirement for professional and collegiate football. However, for recreational footballs and youth leagues, the ball may be made of plastic or rubber materials. High school football clubs generally allow footballs which aren’t expensive and made with rubber although they are not as common as the leather football. The ball is the main equipment of the game and that means if there is no ball, there is no game.
Gloves are worn majorly by receivers. The gloves are made with sticky rubber palms and are called ‘tact gloves’. Since the 1980s, spraying sticky substances on the gloves became illegal. Receivers are not the only ones that wear gloves as they are also worn by linemen. Linemen wear gloves mainly for the purpose of using their hands to fight off opposing linemen. These gloves which the linemen wear is a bit different than those of the receivers in that gloves worn by line men are generally lined with padding that is very thick hence better protecting the hands and fingers. The hands and fingers need the protection especially when they are mistakenly caught in the face mask of the opponent or when another player steps on the hand. Gels and sticky sprays are not allowed on gloves. Spraying sticky gels, since they are illegal, attract grave consequences which will definitely not be favorable for the offending team.
Managing the Equipment
The equipment of footballers is not without hitches such that they don’t need maintenance or proper management. Like any other equipment used in any profession, each gear of the footballer must be properly managed so that it doesn’t get worn out and so that it would last. Football teams are saddled with the responsibility of managing their own equipment for the period of the game. So, they have an obligation to employ an equipment management whose responsibility are of two main areas: first of all, to fit each player on the team with their own customized equipment made available for their protection against injuries and, secondly, for the logistics involved in handling a lot of equipment daily. They must make sure the equipment is in stock, repaired, and constantly being moved in cases where road games are to be played.
An important way to keep the football player safe on the field is to make sure their equipment is in good shape. How should the equipment be maintained?
- Store the equipment in a dry place when it is not being used. You can either use a base room or a mud room; either one is a good choice.
- Don’t leave the equipment on the ground floor where they can get moist. Moist is not a good addition to football equipment. What should you do then? Make sure your equipment is hung on hooks, hangars or, if at all you will put them on the floor, put them on cardboard or pallet so that enough air can get into them.
- Regularly check the equipment to detect signs of damage or crack such as split straps, loose parts, or broken straps, and fix them. Also, you are checking to see if the equipment still fit and if they are in perfect shape, as perfect as possible.
Each equipment needs care:
- The outside and inside of the helmet should be wiped clean with anti-bacterial wipe or warm water with soap
- The hip pads should be cleaned with soap and damp cloth;
- Shoulder pads should be sprayed with an anti-bacterial spray. If they are too muddy, pour water on them but be sure to hand them so they can dry.
- The jockstraps mostly are thrown into water to be washed but, it is more important to read the manufacturer’s instruction on how to clean it which would be included in the label that came with the gear.
- Cleats are cleaned with newspaper to remove moisture and then sprayed with anti-bacterial soap e.g. Lysol. They can also be washed deeply if the label so recommends.
- Knee and thigh pads are cleaned with Lysol too, if needed.
- The uniforms can be laundered if the care instructions on the label allows it. This should be done after every game or even practice. This is because football jerseys, like any other cloth but particularly because of what they are made with, are exposed to dirt, sweat and bacteria.
- Water jug – this wasn’t mentioned in the equipment but it is worthy of note. Players should have their own personal water jugs with which they hold water that they can drink between plays. The water jug should be cleaned regularly in dishwasher after each use. Be sure to purchase water jugs that can be washed in a dishwasher. Players, for safety reasons, aren’t expected to share drinks. Each player should put a label indicating that he is the owner.
A footballer is no footballer without his gear. Although gears are provided when it comes to international competitions and equipment managers are employed to take care of the gear. In other levels, each player owns his own gear and he is his own equipment manager. He must see to it that his football equipment does not gather dust and germs.