UVa. Professor Works With NFL To Find Safest Thigh Pads

By: Suzanne Wilson Email
By: Suzanne Wilson Email

August 21, 2013

Football players are rough on the field and they can easily get injured in one tackle. This year, the NFL is working to make their players safer by increasing the amount of required pads.

Dr. Richard Kent, professor in Biomedical Engineering, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and Emergency Medicine at UVa., is working with the NFL to find the safest pads.

Kent said, "The league wanted a way to provide feedback for the equipment managers and the players in terms of what types of padding designs actually provided impact protection."

Prior to this season, NFL players were the only football players not required to wear thigh and knee pads.

Kent said, " In some cases, the pad will actually make the situation worse, a higher risk of contusion."

Dr. Kent and his team studied over 100 different types of thigh and knee pads. In the end, they found that only 40 of them actually protected the leg.

Kent explained, "We came up with a test method that essentially involves striking the pad and then what we do is measure the pressure that is generated on the thigh when this impact happens."

There is a wide ranger of options for the players to choose from to meet their needs. The NFL is using Kent's research to give the players an approved list of thigh and knee pads. Kent said that so far, the players are happy with the recommendations.

Kent said, "There is a range of options available to the players. Including pads built in to compression shorts, these more traditional loose pads, and some very space agey, new technology that's coming in as well."

Now, every level of football, from pop warner to NFL, are required to wear the pads.

Kent said, "It's also important for kids, high school and pop warner league, that they see their heroes wearing these protective pads because if child gets a deep bone bruise it can cause long term consequences for them."

Dr. Kent has also studied football cleats to help prevent some common foot and knee injuries from the game. His next project is to look into protecting football players against high ankle sprains.

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