The effect of football shoulder pads on pulmonary function

J. Richard Coast, Jessica L. Baronas, Colleen Morris, K. Sean Willeford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


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 (FEV 1.0) were significantly decreased in the PT condition compared to either the CTRL or PL condition, with no changes in the FEV 1.0/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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)367-371
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Sports Science and Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2005


  • Breathing capacity
  • Lung function
  • Protective clothing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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