Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
ISSN: 1303 - 2968   
Ios-APP Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
Androit-APP Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
from September 2014
©Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (2005) 04, 367 - 371

Research article
The Effect of Football Shoulder Pads on Pulmonary Function
J. Richard Coast1,2, , Jessica L. Baronas1, Colleen Morris1, K. Sean Willeford1
Author Information
1 Departments of Exercise Science,
2 Biological Sciences, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ, USA

J. Richard Coast
✉ Exercise Science Program, Department of Biological Sciences, PO Box 5640, NAU, Flagstaff, AZ 86011, USA
Publish Date
Received: 13-07-2005
Accepted: 11-08-2005
Published (online): 01-12-2005
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Restriction of expansion of the lungs or chest wall impedes inflation of the lungs during inhalation. Functional changes occurring during such restriction include reduced pulmonary and/or chest wall compliance, decreases in pulmonary function, and ultimately a decrease in exercise performance. Such restriction can be seen in several pathologic conditions such as scoliosis or obesity, as well as occupational situations such as the wearing of bullet-proof vests. This study investigated the hypothesis that tightened football shoulder pads produce decrements in pulmonary function similar to those shown in previous studies involving other external chest-wall restricting devices. In this study, 24 subjects, all members of a collegiate division IAA football team and used to wearing the pads, performed standard pulmonary function tests while wearing no pads (control, CTRL), wearing pads that were not secured (pads loose, PL) and while wearing pads secured “game-tight” (pads tight, PT). The data showed that both forced vital capacity (FVC) and forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1.0) were significantly decreased in the PT condition compared to either the CTRL or PL condition, with no changes in the FEV1.0/FVC ratio or peak expiratory flow rate. These results are consistent with a restrictive condition and support our hypothesis that tightened shoulder pads reduce pulmonary function. Further studies remain to be performed to determine whether these changes lead to decreased exercise performance and whether equipment modifications can be made to limit alterations in pulmonary function without decreasing the protective value of the pads.

Key words: Lung function, protective clothing, breathing capacity

           Key Points
  • The shoulder pads used in American football extend to the xyphoid process and may provide a restriction to breathing. This was tested in the present study in 24 college-level football players with normal resting pulmonary function.
  • The results showed that there was a decrease in FVC of approximately 150 ml and a similar decrease in FEV.
  • Similar decreases in pulmonary function have been shown to provide a limitation to exercise capacity in otherwise healthy adults.
  • Further study is needed to determine whether these changes lead to decrements in performance.
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