01/02/2011 - 09:09 am
Football players are always looking for an edge. A little more strength, speed or endurance can sometimes make the difference between winning and losing.
One area young players shouldn’t try to cut corners, though, is forgoing any pads for a perceived increase in quickness. Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Ricesaid youth players need all the protection they can get, and risking injury is not worth any supposed benefit.
“It’s important to wear your pads, especially at a younger level,” said Rice, a Pro Bowl back out of Rutgers. “If you get hit in one of those spots, you’re definitely going to regret it – get a hip pointer, a thigh bruise. Those things are real. I’ve had them both.”
There are no studies that show players pick up speed by not wearing hip or thigh pads, said Ron Courson, director of sports medicine at the University of Georgia and a member of USA Football’s Football and Wellness Committee.
Both the NFL and NCAA have made wearing pads a point of emphasis in recent years, Courson said. The NFL rulebook mandates only helmets and shoulder pads, but NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Ray Anderson told USA Today in July that the league is looking at mandating thigh, hip and knee pads in 2011 for all players.
Rice said nobody has had to convince him to wear his full complement of pads.
“It definitely helps your body out in the long run,” Rice said. “A lot of people get a false misconception because us NFL guys tend to be comfortable out there. But obviously we’re putting our bodies out there at risk, so it’s wise to wear your pads while you can.”
Changes in equipment have provided a variety of pad options, Courson said. From the traditional pads that fit inside football pants to pads in girdle pockets to padded girdles.
“This wide variety of pad options makes it easy to select the type that best fits a player’s needs,” Courson said. “Not wearing hip and thigh pads exposes players to injury, in particular hip pointers and quadriceps contusions. Although these injuries generally do not have serious or possibly permanent consequences, they can be debilitating when acute and cause the football player to miss practice and game time.”
That’s not worth the risk for Rice.
“As loose as you want to be, as elusive as you want to be, you definitely want to be safe,” Rice said. “The pads are loose enough where you can make moves.”