Effect of Shoulder Pad Design on Acceleration in a Collision

The purpose of the experiment was to determine the shoulder pad design that best absorbs the force in a football collision by testing different foam types and collision angles.

Shoulder injuries are one of the most commonly injured body sites among football players. Most of these injuries are caused by direct trauma, like tackles. Shoulder pads are designed to redirect and absorb the force in a football collision, therefore reducing the frequency of shoulder injuries. On average, the cost for treating each football injury is $150, a price that grows exponentially when considering the frequency of football injuries. By determining the shoulder pad design that most effectively protects players, football players can remain even safer, and reduce the financial consequences of frequent injuries.

An apparatus was constructed to swing a bowling ball into the plates of a shoulder pad. Pieces of foam were placed between the two plastic plates of the pad at the point where the bowling ball made contact. An accelerometer, which was anchored to the bowling ball, measured the maximum acceleration experienced in each collision. Since it is known that higher accelerations are directly related to higher forces, the accelerations recorded were used to determine which design produced the least amount of force.

Three two-sample t tests were used to analyze the acceleration between the high and low-density foams at the different angles of impact. For each angle of impact, it was determined that the average acceleration in the collisions with low-density foam was significantly lower than it was for the high-density foam.

Research Conducted By:

Ashley Meerschaert 
Cousino High School

Conner Roach
Cousino High School