Protection for football players prime concern

Shawn Lamb was beginning his very first practice as the football coach at Lebanon High School six years ago when he noticed something odd.The player had put on the requisite girdle containing lower body pads for protection meant to be worn under the football pants. Then, instead of pants, he put on another girdle.”I had to take him back down to the locker room to change,” Lamb said. “Here it is, my first varsity head coaching practice, and the first thing I do is help a kid trade in his second girdle.”Because of the size of the rosters and level of contact involved, football gains arguably more attention for equipment and protection than any other sport. Coaches spend the weeks of preseason practice helping players learn and adjust their equipment almost as much as they work on fundamentals and plays, they jerseys Even if it means taking time to help a first time player learn the intricacies of lower body padding.They also have to keep an eye on their budgets. Each year, teams send their helmets and shoulder pads to outside companies to be “reconditioned” cleaned, checked and painted. Some of those return with instructions to replace them, evidenced by the box full of helmets with “rejected” stickers on them at Meadowdale High School.While replacing the outdated is necessary, the budget isn’t unlimited, either.”The helmets have a date in them, and at the end of that time, no ifs, ands or buts,” Meadowdale football coach Bosie Miliner said. “But you also can’t replace everything every year.”Suiting upAt Tuffy Brooks Sporting Goods, the longtime Dayton business that serves about 50 area high schools as well as college teams, there are two types of helmets available. One costs $185, the other $300 because of increased protection. Shoulder pads cost $160 to $170.Between them, those two pieces make up the majority of football equipment costs, which run about $450 per player before footwear. With the variance in quality and cost, plus extra non necessities, the cost can increase to about $600.Jim Dineen, co owner and team sales director at Tuffy Brooks, said more parents are coming in to separately upgrade to the more expensive helmet, especially if their son has suffered a concussion.”They just want that extra assurance on protection,” Dineen said.Mouthpieces have gained more attention in protection, as well. Players are often responsible for their own mouthpieces, which have a cost range of 50 cents to $20. Coaches stress their necessity in preventing concussions, Dineen said.”That keeps the jaw area protected and the bones from moving,” he said. “That can make a big difference.”Making it fitRyan Wilhite, the Springboro football coach, remembers the headaches caused by early season practices from his playing days. But they didn’t come from hitting.”Your head had to get used to your helmet,” Wilhite said. “They were really stiff.”Helmets, like much of the protective equipment, have advanced quickly in providing more player comfort. Helmets, Wilhite said, “are more like motorcycle helmets. They’re cushioned with softer material.” Shoulder pads form more easily to the body and are modified for different positions, making the range of motion better.But coaches caution players that if the equipment is too comfortable, it might not be protecting them.”Our biggest issue is getting the kids to wear pants that fit,” Lamb said. “They see players on Saturdays and Sundays wearing the tightest pants possible, and they try to copy that. That’s not always best for this level.”Coaches also watch for signs that equipment isn’t fitting. If shoulder pads are floppy, coaches know the players were strapping lighter for more comfort. If Xenia coach Bob DeLong notices a significant player haircut, he’ll remind the player to get his helmet checked, because the fit could change.The only “negative” of equipment improvements especially the introduction of girdles with lower body protection included might be that players no longer have to figure out how to employ the bevy of pads they were issued.


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