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What are the Different Types of Football Gear?

By Brendan McGuigan
Updated May 23, 2024
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American football is a relatively rough sport, with a great deal of large men hitting one another at high velocities, often with the aim of knocking them down or hurting them. For this reason, having good football gear is an absolute necessity, and the equipment itself is regulated tightly to ensure maximum safety. Football gear is quite iconic, and its sheer bulk and complexity is one of the things that differentiates American football from its European cousins, rugby and hurling. A full kit of football gear is needed to play any sort of serious tackle football, as anything less could result in serious injury.

The most visible piece of football gear is the helmet, and helmets are often kept as trophies or sport’s memorabilia to recall the game itself. A football helmet has a mouth guard, chin strap, jaw pads, air bladders, and face mask, all wrapped up in a shell. The shell itself is made of thick, hard plastic, and contains a great deal of padding. This includes both solid padding, made of foam rubber, and air bladders that offer tighter, more rigorous padding. The helmet is held in place by a chin strap, the jaw and tongue are protected by a mouth guard, and a grilled face mask helps guard the face from direct injury.

Although football gear hasn’t changed that much over the past couple of decades, two notable changes have come about. The first is the inclusion into the football helmet of an optional visor, usually made of some sort of tinted colored plastic. This visor acts both as a glare reducer to allow players to see better, and gives more direct protection to the eyes. The second change is the option to add a headset into the helmet of the quarterback, to allow coaches to easily speak with the quarterback during a game, to confer on plays.

Another piece of football gear are the shoulder pads, which are surprisingly more complex than even the helmet. Shoulder pads cover not only the shoulders, but also protect the chest and ribcage, and help protect the entire body. One of the main functions of shoulder pads, which are held in place by an ornate set of buckles, is to reduce the impact of hits. They accomplish this both by deforming when the player is hit, absorbing some of the shock, and by helping to spread the hit out over a much larger surface area, reducing the risk of a serious direct blow.

Other pieces of football gear include the nylon pants and jerseys, either with spandex during games, or with mesh for practices in hot weather. The pants are usually full of a number of pads, including knee pads and thigh pads, and are usually held in place by a belt. Three different types of shoes may also be worn, ranging from thin bottoms for dry play, thicker bottoms for damp, and extremely thick bottoms for rainy games, all worn with cleats for field play. A full set of football gear may also include neck rolls, sticky gloves, tailbone pads, and an athletic support.

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