Protective Equipment

Protective gear is a key element of injury prevention in sport. However, even the best gear is ineffective when fit is improper. It is essential to understand and follow proper fit guidelines for all styles of equipment. Equipment should be utilized in the way that it was designed to gain the full protective effects.

Shoulder and Chest Pads

  • Many sports require the use of some type of shoulder padding. Pads typically consist of a foam inner layer fastened to a hard plastic outer shell. This is then secured to the body by a system of straps and clips. In sports such as rugby, shoulder and chest protection is provided by high density foam padding without hard shells.
  • Fitting a football shoulder girdle should include the following elements:

– Size and be position specific:

-Both Scapulae are covered

-Deltoids are covered

-Top flap coverlet covers the AC joint

-Entire sternum is covered

  • Sports that involve high velocity impacts with players, balls, or other equipment need to wear protective chest and shoulder equipment.



  • The use of helmets can lower the risk of athletes to experience traumatic injuries such as skull and facial fractures. However the ability to reduce the risk of concussion is not as well understood.
  • To gain the full protective benefits of a helmet, the equipment must be fitted properly and securely.

– Fitting of Football helmet:

1. Measure head size (take measurement ~1″ above eyebrow

2. Select helmet based on this measurement

3. Place the helmet on the head.

– The front of the helmet should sit ~1″ (~2 finger widths) above eyebrow.

– To adjust the helmet comfort, air can be added to the inflation bladders. Adding air to a helmet that is too small will not correct a poor fit.

– Back of the helmet should cover the back of the skull.

– Cheek pads should fit snugly on the cheek but not too tight.

– Ear holes on the helmet should line up with the player’s ears

  1. To test that the helmet is correctly fitted, move the helmet by the face-mask up, down, and side to side. The head should turn with the helmet without slipping. If the helmet slips, the fit is improper.
  2. Air bladders should be checked routinely to ensure the helmet still fits properly after use.
  • The National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) is considered to be a main governing body on athletic equipment. The committee is comprised of members from various medical groups, including the American College Health Association, American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, American College of Sports Medicine, American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, American Academy of Pediatrics, Athletic Equipment Managers Association, American Football Coaches Association, National Athletic Equipment Reconditioners Association, National Athletic Trainers Association, Sports & Fitness Industry Association, NCAA and the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).
  • NOCSAE was created in 1969 to help reduce the rate of serious injuries and fatalities in football by introducing helmet standards. This has been the basis of NOCSAE’s purpose for the last 50 years. Now NOCSAE certifies headgear for football, baseball/softball, lacrosse, hockey, and polo. They also certify lacrosse balls, baseballs, softballs, and soccer shin guards.
  • While there are no requirements for recertification, NOCSAE recommends that all organizations create a recertification policy in which their equipment is regularly inspected to meet their specific demands on the equipment.


Eye Protection

  • In some sports that do not require helmets, eye protection is recommended to prevent eye injury. Up to 90% of eye injuries are preventable with proper equipment.
  • Eye protection should be considered in the following sports that have moderate-high risk for eye injury: Badminton, Basketball, Baseball, Softball, Lacrosse, Hockey, Tennis, Soccer, Volleyball, Water Polo, Football, Paintball, Cricket, Squash, Racquetball, Fencing, Fishing and Golf


Mouth guards

  • To protect from dental injuries, athletes can wear mouth guards. Dental procedures can become costly over a lifetime. Prevention of these injuries is a simple task. When mouth guards are worn and fitted properly, they have been shown to reduce the rate of dental and facial injuries, such as lacerations, tooth dislocations or fractures, or facial fractures.
  • Mouth guards range from 1$-$50 and can be bought in bulk, making them an easy item to resupply annually.


Shin Guards

  • NOCSAE certifies shin guards for soccer players. They are designed to protect the lower leg against contusion, fractures, and lacerations.