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William E. Prentice


When you finish this chapter you should be able to

  • Fit selected protective equipment properly (e.g., football helmets, shoulder pads, and running shoes).

  • Differentiate between good and bad features of selected protective devices.

  • Contrast the advantages and disadvantages of customized versus off-the-shelf foot and ankle protective devices.

  • Rate the protective value of various materials used in sports to make pads and orthotic devices.

  • List the steps in making a customized foam pad with a thermomoldable shell.


  • National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE)

  • off-the-shelf equipment

  • toe box

  • outer sole

  • shank

  • shoe upper

  • shoe last

  • pronators

  • supinators

  • heel counter

  • arch support

  • orthotics

  • prophylactic (protective) knee braces

  • functional brace

  • rehabilitative brace

  • neoprene sleeve

  • open-celled foams

  • closed-celled foams

  • thermomoldable plastics

  • dynamic splint


One of the main responsibilities of the athletic trainer is to try to minimize the likelihood of injury or reinjury. A number of factors either singly or collectively can contribute to the incidence of injury. Certainly, the selection, fitting, and maintenance of protective equipment are critical not only in injury prevention but also in injury rehabilitation.85 Regardless of whether the athletic trainer works at the secondary-school, collegiate, or professional level or in a clinical, hospital, corporate, or industrial setting, it is essential to have some knowledge about the types of protective equipment available for a particular activity and how that equipment should best be fitted and maintained to reduce the possibility of injury.33

This protection is particularly important in direct collision sports, such as football, hockey, and lacrosse, but it can also be important in indirect-contact sports, such as basketball and soccer. When protective sports equipment is selected and purchased, a significant commitment is made to safeguard athletes' health and welfare.

During the rehabilitation period following injury, the athletic trainer must be knowledgeable about the types of protective rehabilitation equipment available and about how that equipment should be utilized to facilitate the recovery process.


There is serious concern about the standards for protective sports equipment, particularly material durability standards. These concerns include who should set the standards, the mass production of equipment, equipment testing methods, and requirements for wearing protective equipment. Standards are also needed for protective equipment maintenance, repair, and replacement.26 Too often, old, worn-out, and ill-fitting equipment is passed down from the varsity players to the younger and often less experienced players, compounding their risk of injury.33 It is critical for those responsible for purchasing athletic equipment to be less concerned with the color, look, and style of a piece of equipment and more concerned with its ability to prevent injury.63 Many national organizations are addressing these issues. Engineering, chemistry, ...

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