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The Best Youth Shoulder Pads

author image Jessica Bell
Jessica Bell has been working in the health and fitness industry since 2002. She has served as a personal trainer and group fitness instructor. Bell holds an M.A. in communications and a B.A. in English.
The Best Youth Shoulder Pads
Dad with son holding a football Photo Credit Jack Hollingsworth/Digital Vision/Getty Images

If your youngster has signed up for a football league, you'll want to protect him with the best sports gear available. For most football players, this means donning quality shoulder pads, compression gear, gloves and a helmet. You may be tempted to use hand-me-downs or team equipment, but some gear, such as shoulder pads, really need to be fitted to an individual to provide the best protection. So if you're in the market for some football pads, there are a few features to look for to make sure you're making the best purchase.

Position Variations

The first consideration when purchasing shoulder pads is your player's position, because different positions require different functionality. A quarterback will generally want low-profile, lightweight pads that allow for maximum speed and movement. Punters and kickers can also wear quarterback pads because they allow for the greatest mobility. Skilled positions, such as running backs, wide receivers and defensive backs, also need lightweight gear, but their shoulder pads should offer slightly better protection. Linemen require the heaviest, most durable pads to protect their bodies against hard tackles and hits.

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Heat Matters

During summer practices, temperatures on the field can become unbearably hot, especially under heavy shoulder pads. In hot climates, a major consideration when purchasing gear is breathability and heat retention. Purchase pads that allow enough room for slight air circulation to prevent heat from becoming trapped against the skin. A 2008 study from the "American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine" found that cool air circulating between an athlete and his pads can dramatically reduce core body temperature . Cutting-edge gear utilizes the same technology used by space programs to protect astronauts. These materials, specifically aluminized polyester, can even be inserted into existing shoulder pads to make the gear less hot for players.

The Right Fit

The best shoulder pads must be properly fitted to a player. Youth sizes range from extra small to extra large and are based on weight, shoulder and chest measurements. You can use a tape measure and size chart to give you an idea of the right size, but it's critical to actually try on the gear to make sure the pads you select provide enough coverage during play.

Tips and Precautions

According to recommendations made by Michigan Governor's Council on Physical Fitness, Health and Sports, shoulder pads should always be used for the athlete they were fitted for. Unless an athlete outgrows his pads or the become damaged, keep them in the same pads to ensure that the gear is providing the best possible protection. Be sure to regularly inspect the plastics and other materials of the shoulder pads for frays, cracks or loose rivets, and replace them as soon as these signs of wear appear.

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