Quantifying the Effects of American Football Shoulder Pads on Reach Distance and Player Perception of Comfort and Fit

Claudia M. Town, Ron Jadischke Xenith, David M. Andrews


Background: The majority of sports equipment research to date has focused on their protective capabilities, and not on how they impact player performance and comfort while using them. Objective: The purpose of this study was to quantify the reach distances of players wearing different football shoulder pads and determine player perceptions of shoulder pad comfort and fit. Methods: Football players (n=10) underwent a standardized reach distance protocol comprised of three trials of repeated shoulder flexion, extension, abduction, horizontal flexion, and horizontal extension in each of the three shoulder pad conditions (no shoulder pad, standard shoulder pad, prototype shoulder pad). Player perceptions of shoulder pad comfort and fit, breathability, restrictiveness, and weight were also evaluated using a questionnaire. Reach distances were recorded using five GoPro Hero 9 cameras and analyzed using ProAnalyst®3D motion tracking software. Results: Reach distances were significantly affected during several movements, but especially in the vertical direction, for flexion and abduction, with mean differences between the prototype pad and standard pad of 10.3 cm and 23.1 cm, respectively (P = 0.007 and P = 0.003). Differences in reach distance were greater for the standard shoulder pad than the prototype shoulder pad on average. This indicates that the prototype shoulder pad was less restrictive, which aligned with what players reported. There was significantly more discomfort reported in the neck collar and armpit regions for the standard shoulder pad compared to the prototype pad. Participants also found the prototype shoulder pad to be lighter, and more breathable (P<0.05). Conclusion: These results provide manufacturers with valuable insights from a design standpoint, and offer athletes who are looking for superior sport protective equipment key evidence regarding shoulder pad performance, fit, and comfort.


Sports Equipment, Athletic Performance, Football, Motion Capture

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7575/aiac.ijkss.v.11n.2p.51


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