It's been the hot button topic of the 2010 NFL season--injuries and how to prevent them on the field. The season generated an increased number of injuries, despite the league's pre-season request for players to wear more protective padding. In less than a week, the Steelers and Packers will meet on the field in North Texas with a Super Bowl title on the line and the determination to do anything to get it.
Some players will show up to the game fully padded, though many - at their own risk - will not. It is a fight that still has not reached an industry-wide resolution.
Players often knowingly put themselves in danger of incurring an injury if the alternative option is to wear cumbersome gear. The league has been working towards a mandate that all players utilize more protection around the hips, thighs and knees.
Protective gear has progressed in technology in the past five years. Players like the Steelers quarterback used to wear what was considered a rib vest or flak jacket. Now, many are wearing product that is half the weight of those pads.
This new category - called protective performance apparel - was started by a company called McDavid. Its signature product, HexPad, consists of independently positioned hex shaped pads that are bonded directly onto a compression shirt so that it is lightweight and moves with the athlete, unlike the bulky pads most players remember from high school.
"I hear this all the time from athletes," Rey Corpuz, director of marketing for McDavid said. "They don't like getting bogged down by pads that hold moisture. They are paid to compete at the highest level, and their livelihood depends on their best performance. I wish they could see that protecting themselves from injury is a way of keeping them on the field longer, and extending their careers over time."
Still, as it stands, NFL athletes are required to wear uniforms, helmets and shoulder pads, while other protection is only recommended. The requirements may change in 2011 and companies like McDavid are committed to providing the best technology, which will give players what they want, in addition to what they need.
"We are seeing an evolution of protective equipment throughout the industry to allow players to be faster and more aggressive without hindering their performance," Corpuz said. "HexPad works for the athletes, not against them. They can't even tell they are wearing the gear because it is so light and breathable, and that is a big part of what makes it so appealing."
HexPad is worn by more than 90 percent of professional basketball teams, 50 percent of professional football teams and almost all collegiate teams.