Making Football Safer with Tackle Rings

The game of football is always progressing. Whether it’s playing styles, coaching techniques, or safety equipment, continued development is essential to success. With the rise in awareness on the impact of concussions; players, coaches, and equipment manufacturers have been asked to change their thinking, and find ways to make the game we love safer. Helmet manufacturers have continued to design, test, and produce safer helmets for players to wear. The issue being, it will be nearly impossible to develop a concussion proof helmet. The fact is that the game is physical, and being played a pace faster than ever before. What may be more important to protecting players is the rethinking of how we teach and play the game.

Leagues from the NFL down to Pop Warner have changed rules to protect defenseless players, and help limit the amount of traumatic collisions. This has seen some success, but it has far from solved the bigger problem. Some innovative thinkers have looked to other sports to find inspiration on how to make the game safer. One place some turned to is the birthplace of football, the sport of Rugby. More popular overseas, rugby is the pad-less version of football that can almost seems barbaric from a distance. But when you dig in a bit further, you’ll see that the lack of padded protection has forced rugby players and coaches to figure out ways to tackle and contest without putting themselves in harm’s way. By introducing helmets and shoulder pads into a tackle situation, what it has allowed football players in the past to do is turn themselves into a weapon. Without the worries of lasting effects, players for decades have launched head first into collisions. But without this protection, rugby players have devised a different tackling style, that focuses on shoulder placement and wrapping of the arms to take down their opponents. This hasn’t removed concussions from the sport of rugby, but it has allowed for less concussions to occur, particularly when compared to the sport of football.

NFL teams such as the Seattle Seahawks, and college programs like the University of Washington and Ohio State have decided to adapt this “rugby style” of tackling, in hopes protecting their players and improving their performance. In 2014, Ohio State decided to full embrace this technique, with wholesale changes to how the taught, practiced, and executed the tackle. This lead to them not only limiting injuries, but also to an improving their defense and a National Championship.

One important part to teaching the rugby tackling technique was the development of new drills and training equipment. A piece of gear that had been used in rugby for years was the tackle ring. The round bag, designed to replicate a moving player, allowed coaches to teach their players how to readjust their body and perform a safer tackle. Traditional football tackling techniques would have players put their head in front of a ball carrier, using it to slow them down. But the rugby tackling method teaches players to place their heads behind the ball carrier, lessening the likeness of a collision directly to the head, and forcing players to rely on shoulder placement and wrapping of the arms. It is one thing to introduce this new technique on a stationary bag, but it’s the making that adjust on the move that leads to its success.  This is where the tackle ring or tackle wheel, plays an instrumental role. It provides safe repetitions for individual players, allowing them to correctly develop or reteach themselves how to perform a safe tackle.

Tackling rings have become an essential part of any teams training regimen. From Pop Warner to the pros, teaching players how to safely tackle will be a crucial step in making football a safer game.

Get football tackle rings and all your other football training equipment from Sports Unlimited.

Written By Dylan Hamilton, Sports Unlimited

2017 Sports Unlimited Scholarship Winner – Rocket Grade Defense

We know the future is bright, as today’s young minds continue to astonish us all with their ingenuity. At Sports Unlimited, we understand the importance of fostering this brilliance, and continued education is a key piece to this equation. That is why the annual Sports Unlimited Scholarship was created, providing assistance to those who will drive us forward.

Requiring an essay submission on a particular topic, the scholarship is awarded to the individual who best displays creative thinking and resourcefulness. This year’s prompt asked students to identify a piece of gear or equipment currently used in a sport and describe how to improve it and why. Over a thousand essays were sent in, each of which described an innovative vision. Covering a range of sports and equipment from football to fencing, basketball to badminton.

This year’s winner took on the popular topic of football helmet improvement, but was able to pull from a unique source of inspiration. Using the design elements of the space shuttle, Paul Wasuwanich of Orlando, Florida was able to provide a compelling argument for how the football helmet should be redeveloped. And because of this, Sports Unlimited was proud to offer him a scholarship of a $1000, as he heads off to the University of Notre Dame this fall.

Read Paul’s submission, entitled “Rocket Grade Defense”:

Paul Wasuwanich, Timber Creek High School – Orlando, FL

Astronauts and football players have a lot more in common than many might think. They both work in extreme environment and therefore require extreme protection. Astronauts must survive in the harsh environments of space full of deadly radiation, destructive space debris, and freezing temperatures. Football players, on the other hand, must survive on the dangerous football field full of 300 pound opponents ready to tackle them with up to one ton of force, about 4 times the force required to crush a human skull according the Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics [4]. To protect from such threats, engineers have devised multiple defenses to keep astronauts and football players safe. One of those defenses is the helmet.

                A football helmet is as important to the player as a space helmet is to an astronaut. Fatality is imminent if that crucial device is absent. It is easy to see how a man would suffocate in space without his space helmet, but harder to visualize the internal damage a football player suffers with each blow to the head. According to statistics from the NFL, there were 271 diagnosed concussions in the 2015 season [2]. Having closely studied the brain with my professor, Dr. Mohtashem Samsam, a neurologist from the University of Central Florida, I understand clearly that the previously mentioned 271 concussions is much more than the number suggests. Concussions result from severe head trauma, but football players receive much more head traumas that do not produce acute effects such as the concussion. A progressive degenerative disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) plagues football players who have received severe or multiple head traumas. In a 2014 study from Boston University, of 79 brains from former NFL players, 76 tested positive for CTE [1]. Brains with CTE are similar in appearance and function to brains with Huntington’s disease.

                Today, we are so used to hearing about football concussions that they have become accepted as inevitable, but they are not. Over the years, football equipment has improved, reducing the number of concussions and the severity of brain damage. No helmets became leather helmets, and leather helmets became the modern football helmets we see today. The modern helmet is still not sufficient and can be further improved to reduce the number of concussions even more.

                In space, an astronaut’s first line of defense are walls of his spacecraft which are designed to protect against space debris moving at up to an astonishing 17,500 mph [5]. This technology can be applied to the football helmet. The walls of spacecrafts come in my varieties, but they have the same basic design, multiple layers of a thin, light, hard material (e.g. aluminum alloy) with soft material (e.g. foam) in between [3]. The goal of this defense is not to deflect the impacting object as football helmets do, but to significantly reduce the force of the object so that it would not penetrate the inner walls of the spacecraft. The outer walls of the spacecraft do two things to prevent penetration of the spacecraft, one of those is increasing the time it takes the object to hit inner walls. It is a physics concept shown by the formula:

I = FΔt

I = Impulse or change in momentum

F = Force

Δt = Change in time

In this case, the impulse is constant, so by increasing the time of impact, we can decrease the force of object when it hits in the inner wall. Having alternating layers of hard and soft defenses means the object or shock wave must pass through multiple materials with different properties. It takes a shock wave more time to pass through two different materials than one material of the same amount. The football helmet should be designed as such: A thin outer layer of a hard, light material (e.g. carbon fiber), followed by a soft material (e.g. foam), a hard material again, a soft material again, then a thick hard layer, and finally a soft cushion for the head.

                Other than increasing the time of impact, the outer walls of the spacecraft also deforms. Deformation, unlike deflection, absorbs the energy of the impact. A football player wearing a helmet that deforms on impact will experience less force to the head than a football player wearing a helmet that deflects the impact force. The reason cars crumble in crashes is not because of the force of impact, but because engineers designed the car to absorb as much energy as possible by deforming in order to protect the driver. Although football helmets that deform on impact will have to be frequently replaced, it is worth the improvement in safety.

                Broken bones can heal, torn muscles can be repaired, but dead brain cells cannot be replaced, therefore, head protection in a sport as aggressive as American football is of uttermost importance.

Sports Unlimited would like to thank all of those who submitted an essay for this year’s scholarship. We will be sharing a few of our other finalist’s ideas in the near future. The prompt for the 2018 Sports Unlimited Scholarship will be available soon, so be sure to check back!

Written By Dylan Hamilton, Sports Unlimited

 

2017 Football Equipment Reviews – Youth

As summer is upon us, we know many across the country are already dreaming of the fall. Football fast approaches, and we’ll spend the next few months anticipating our favorite College and NFL Football teams seasons, and in many cases, gearing up for our own. No matter what level you play at, having the right equipment for the upcoming year is essential. From helmets to pants, shoulder pads to receiver gloves, every player wants the safest gear that will allow them to perform at their best.

We at Sports Unlimited wanted to do our best in helping you prepare, by giving you some insight on newest products from the sports leading manufactures. Over the next several weeks, we’ll highlight some recently released equipment, focusing on the new technology and features. This will allow you to make informed decisions on your purchases for next season.

Our first installment looks at some of the new gear that youth football players will be wearing this year. While the speed of the game is slower, the importance of safety is no less. We’ll take a look at several pieces of equipment that will help protect the upper body of our future football stars, as they foster their passion for the game.

Helmet – Schutt Vengeance Z10 Youth

The most essential piece of football equipment is undoubtedly the helmet. Offering protection to the most valuable asset, a youth football helmet is worthy of upgrade investment. While the Schutt Vengeance Z10  was released in 2016, it is now for the first time available in youth sizes in 2017. The only difference it has with its adult counterpart is the ABS Plastic shell. This shell is durable, lightweight, and required by most youth football leagues. The Z10 from Schutt is a top of the line helmet, packed with all their design features that offer a great fit and defense against contact to the head. A few notable features for the Z10 are its Titanium facemask, which significantly lightens the helmet and lessens the strain on a young players neck. It also comes with internal and external cheek stabilizers for reinforced protection.  Available in a range of colors and facemask styles to get the custom look you desire.

Shoulder Pads – Riddell Surge Youth

While youth football shoulder pads aren’t exposed to the intense impact hits of varsity pads, it is still important to have the necessary protection. Riddell has released a new high-end youth shoulder pad for 2017, unveiling their Riddell Surge and its premium look and feel. The most noticeable feature on these pads is the level of padded protection. Some youth pads can limited in the padding, but the Surge offers excellent coverage of the shoulders, chest, and back. The lower back is also looked after with the inclusion of matching back plate. With a velvet collar and flat pad design that sits low on the shoulders, the Riddell Surge is great option for next season.

Rib Protector – Xenith Xflexion Core Guard

You will typically receive sufficient coverage of the upper body with a good pair of football shoulder pads. But for those who play a position that takes extra hits, the added protection of a rib protector is just what the doctor ordered. The Xenith Xflexion Core Guard is a versatile option that allows you to customize the protection you receive. The rib pads on the Xflexion can be adjusted or removed, letting you use this as just a back plate as well. The Xenith’s also come with their own shoulder strap, letting you use them with or without shoulder pads. Size specifically to the dimensions of a youth player, the Xenith Xflexion is exceptional choice.

Back Plate – Gear Pro-Tec Razor Back Plate

The last piece to the upper body protection equation is the addition of a back plate. Some shoulder pads come with a back plate, and some rib protectors have one built in. But for those that don’t already have the lower back coverage they desire, than the Gear Pro-Tec Razor back plate is a perfect solution. Using the same technology found in their highly rated shoulder pads, the Razor back plate features Compressed HEX foam side panels and SAS-TEC foam spine inserts. These make for a lightweight, breathable protection of the lower back and spine. Works for all Gear Pro-Tec Razor and Z-Cool shoulder pads, as well as fitting most other brand pads with its universal T-nut and screw attachment.

Written By Dylan Hamilton, Sports Unlimited

Best Mouth Guards – Top 5

When preparing for participation in a contact sport, one thing you certainly don’t want to go light on is protection. If its football you’re gearing up for, you wouldn’t want to run onto the field without a helmet and shoulder pads. And while some protection is obvious, one the most important pieces of equipment across all sports comes in a small package. The mouth guard, mouthpiece, gum shield, or whatever you want to call it, is essential in protecting athletes heads and their beautiful smiles.

We’re all familiar with $1 yellow mouthguard that you would boil the morning before the game and probably lose before the day was over. They were bulky, uncomfortable, and you couldn’t speak with it in your mouth. But like most articles of sports equipment, the mouth guard has continued on a path of development, making it safer and more comfortable than ever. Today’s mouthpieces are lighter, allow for easy breathing, come in flavors, and can even be a fashion statement with their wide range of colors and patterns. Athletes everywhere, from basketball, football, rugby, lacrosse, hockey, and more are protecting their grills with one of these new mouth guards. With a multitude of options, we wanted to highlight our top 5 standouts that have taken mouthguard protection to the next level.

  1. Battle Digi Camo Oxygen Lip Protector

There are two types of mouth guards, those that provide lip protection, and those that don’t. Many sports, such as football, prefer the lip coverage given the physical natural of play. One disadvantage to lip protection used to be that it was difficult to breathe with. But with Battle Sports new Digi Camo Oxygen, and its 293% larger breathing hole, that problem is no longer relevant. Now you can perform at your highest level with maximum protection.  Available in three colorful digital camo patterns, the Battle Digi Camo Oxygen Lip Protector is a great addition to any player’s game day protection.

  1. Shock Doctor Double Braces Mouthguard

One issue that many youth players run into when search for the right mouthpiece is the addition of braces to the equation. Often uncomfortable on their own, adding a mouth guard to the mix is never a simple solution. But with metal braces covering the teeth, it’s more important than ever that an athlete have this layer of protection. The last thing you want is those expensive braces breaking and cutting the inside of the mouth. Among the leaders in the mouth guard industry, Shock Doctor has developed a product that solves this predicament. The Shock Doctor Double Braces Mouthguard uses an innovative Ortho-Channel to fit around both the upper and lower brace brackets. It will also adapt to changing tooth positions as the braces are adjusted and features a breathing channel in the center to allow for air flow. Now players (and parents) can rest assure that they have full proof protection.

  1. Nike Hyperflow Flavored Mouthguard

Leave it up to today’s minds to design a mouth guard that tastes as good as it protects. Among other brands, Nike has developed their Hyperflow Flavored mouthpiece to provide long lasting flavor game after game. But this mouthguard isn’t just tasty, it also delivers excellent protection with its Dual-Density construction. The Nike Hyperflow also features its O-Flow breathing channels that allow for maximum oxygen intake on the field or court. Available in several different flavor options, the Nike Hyperflow Flavored mouth guards is perfect for anyone’s tastes.

  1. Shock Doctor Gel Max Convertible Mouthguard

Shock Doctor has been at the forefront of advancement when it comes to mouth protection. Offering a range of options that suit any athlete’s particular needs. The Gel Max Convertible mouthpiece is a perfect example of the best they have to offer. Firstly, it comes with an Exoskeletal shock frame that provides excellent protection and durability. A triple layer design with integrated breathing channels allows for breathability when you’re out performing.  The Gel-Fit liner makes for a comfortable fit and the convertible tether lets you use this mouthguard with or without a strap. This all-around mouth guard is available in four different colors, and at a value that is sure to be appreciated.

  1. Sisu NextGen Max Mouthguard

Sisu is a relatively new name to the mouth guard industry, but don’t let that fool you. They have offered a revolutionary design to the moldable mouthpiece that is changing how we think of mouth protection. The one complaint many athletes shared, was that face that a mouthguard was bulky, breathing restricting, and limited the ability to communicate on the playing field. In some cases, players wouldn’t wear them at all because of this, putting their safety in jeopardy. Sisu has designed a mouth guard that is as functional as it is protective. Offering a solution to these previous complaints and providing a protection option to those who refused to wear a mouthguard before. The NextGen Max is incredibly lightweight but built to handle even more impact. The best feature is that this mouthguard fits so securely in the mouth, that it allows athletes to talk, drink, and breathe as if it wasn’t even there. This is possible from a combination of its innovative molding process and the 2.4 mm thick design. Making it 30% thinner and up to 50% stronger than your traditional mouth guard. This new way of thinking is what makes the Sisu NextGen Max our number on pick for best mouth guard.

-Written By Dylan Hamilton, Sports Unlimited

Football Gift Guide: What to get a football player for Christmas

There’s no better place to find a Christmas gift for that special football player in your life than here at Sports Unlimited. We offer the largest in-stock selection of football gear anywhere online and we’re ready to ship it to you with plenty of time to get it under the tree by Christmas day. Here are some of our top picks this holiday season.

A Riddell SpeedFlex under the tree will make any football player's Christmas.
A Riddell SpeedFlex under the tree will make any football player’s Christmas.

1. Riddell SpeedFlex Adult Football Helmet with Facemask

If you’ve been watching football in the last two years – and we know you have – you’re probably familiar with the SpeedFlex. It’s the football helmet with the unique cutout panel in the front of the shell that’s recognizable from the youth field all the way up to the NFL. Aside from its stunning aesthetic, the SpeedFlex is one of the most protective helmets on the market with a specially designed facemask and chinstrap working in unison with the helmet’s shell to keep you safe.

The Schutt XV HD Shoulder Pads could make a nice surprise gift.
The Schutt XV HD Shoulder Pads could make a nice surprise gift.

2. Schutt XV HD Shoulder Pads

Choosing the proper football shoulder pad can be a complex task, but it’s tough to go wrong with the Schutt XV HD Shoulder Pads. Lightweight and protective, the XV HD line is one of the most popular we offer with removable clavicle channel to allow you to customize the fit. Whether you’re shopping for quarterback shoulder pads, lineman shoulder pads, pads for skill players or all-purpose shoulder pads, the XV HD line has a version that’s right for you.

3. Lineman facemask

Schutt ROPO-DW Pro Facemask
Riddell S2BDC-TX-LW Facemask

The past year or so has been tough on linemen. With the NFL, NCAA and some states banning the popular Big Grill facemask, the big guys have had a tough time choosing their look. But the facemask companies have adapted to the new rules and came up with facemasks built to intimidate. Riddell now offer the Riddell S2BDC-TX-LW facemask that has a similar look to the ultra-popular Big Grill 2.0. Schutt also took note, adding a Schutt ROPO-DW Pro facemask style to fit their Vengeance models. The titanium construction keeps the weight down, making it easier to keep your head up during play.

4. Oakley Visor

Oakley’s clear eyeshield makes any helmet look good

Nothing completes the look of a football helmet like a visor and while there are plenty of options on the market, few compare to the Oakley Eyeshield. The most popular football visor, Oakley has tweaked the optics to perfection giving you a clear view of the field and keeping opponents fingers out of your face. With a variety of sticker colors, you can customize the visor to your own team specifications. The clear version is legal in all leagues, making it the safest gift option, but a dark version like the 20 percent grey visor could also do the trick.

5. Douglas Back Plate

A custom colored Douglas Back Plate protects players and looks great
A custom colored Douglas Back Plate protects players.

Extra protection is always a good thing, making the Douglas Back Plate an easy choice for anyone looking for a last-minute gift. Made in the USA by one of the most trusted names in the football business, this back plate is one of the top accessories in the game. It’s available in a wide range of colors to ensure you can match your team’s colorway and attaches to almost any brand of shoulder pad. You can also opt for a four-inch version of the back plate for smaller or youth players.

Trystan Lago Awarded 2015 Scholarship

After reading each and every one of the thousands of scholarship entries for this year’s award, we have finally decided upon a winner. Before I announce who that person is, I’ll briefly explain the scholarship itself and how it is earned.

Each year, we give a $1,000 scholarship award to a deserving individual who we think exemplifies our values here at Sports Unlimited. We discover this person by asking our applicants (who must be a graduating high school senior or a freshman/sophomore in college) to write a convincing and honest essay that answers that year’s prompt. One of our core values is to foster development and by helping a high school or college student-athlete continue his/her education, we hope to stay true to that value.

The 2015 scholarship prompt was to “describe a time when you’ve had to overcome adversity to succeed in a sport.” This style prompt allowed us to accept responses from thousands of applicants who have all participated in various sports whether that be baseball, cheerleading, ice skating, cross country, volleyball, football, martial arts, or one of many more sports. It was not easy to choose only one winner and we appreciate each and every response that we’ve received. Without meandering further, the 2015 winner of the Sports Unlimited Scholarship is…

Trystan Lago

Sports Unlimited Scholarship Winner ,Trystan Lago signing Trine Football Agreement
Sports Unlimited Scholarship Winner, Trystan Lago signs Trine Football Agreement

Trystan’s well-written essay epitomized an athlete’s ability to overcome adversity in a sport in order to succeed and we are truly proud to award him with this scholarship. He is an extremely deserving young man and we wish him all the best in his studies and athletic endeavors at Trine University this fall.

Here is a short excerpt of Trystan’s essay:

“Then, my greatest life disappointment came. My throwing wrist was fractured in the last game of my junior season. After two surgeries, 8 months in a cast, and sitting out spring football the offensive coach decided to start a 15-year-old sophomore who had played as quarterback while I was recovering. I had played quarterback my entire career. It was my love and passion, what kept that burning drive in me to succeed and I found out I would be sitting the bench my senior year. I knew that, without any senior year statistics or game film as quarterback, college football scholarships that had been just within my grasp would likely be impossible. I was extremely depressed, my grades dropped, I didn’t want to go to school, I told my Mom I didn’t care about anything, I was embarrassed and didn’t want to walk through the halls at school or sit with classmates at lunch. My Mom was very worried about me so she asked teachers and mentors at my school, Calvary Christian Academy, to support me. I had a decision to make, be angry and sit on the bench my senior season or ask the coach which position he wanted me to play instead of quarterback. I decided to lose my pride and make the best of the situation. My coach said he was impressed by my attitude, that we needed a wide receiver. Though I suffered my greatest life disappointment, I played as receiver supporting my team and encouraging the younger quarterback.”

Keep an eye out right here on the blog and on our dedicated Sports Unlimited Scholarship page for the new 2016 scholarship essay and survey for next year’s award.

 


Mariota’s 808 Facemask

He gained fame at Oregon, rose to the Heisman podium and will be drafted in the NFL this year. Marcus Mariota is a stud, but he had to come from somewhere and that somewhere is Honolulu, Hawaii. Cool, right? Well, Mariota thinks it’s cool and that’s why he represents Honolulu, wearing his signature 808 facemask that happens to be the area code of his hometown.

It may be somewhat subtle, but Marcus Mariota’s facemask uses a bar configuration that forms the numbers 808 right on the front of the mask. We’ve highlighted it in this graphic so you can sound cool when you point out the 808 to your friends.

Marcus Mariota 808 Facemask

 

This facemask is built for the immensely popular Riddell Revo Speed Helmet (and fits the Revo Speed, Revolution Speed Classic in both youth and adult, Revolution Edge, Revolution Attack-i, and Revolution Attack). These are a limited run design and will be hard to come by, so if you want to get your hands on one, now is the time.


The Riddell SpeedFlex

It’s here. I repeat. It’s here. Holy smokes does this helmet look and feel incredible. As people obsessed with football gear, we have been impatiently awaiting the arrival of the Riddell SpeedFlex Helmet because it’s the most exciting helmet release in recent history. With new protective tech and design aspects we’ve never seen before, Riddell has built a game-changer.

Riddell SpeedFlex Helmet Images

If you’re looking for the nitty-gritty details, features, and specs, head on over to our SpeedFlex page for more specific information on the Flex System, Composite Energy Management, new Ratchet-Loc retention system, and other crazy cool tech. We will be getting in all sorts of colors (including matte colors) and sizes so that you’ll be able to find the exact helmet you want and need. We actually stock these helmets right in our warehouse so that they can ship out the same day if ordered before 3 PM ET because when you buy a SpeedFlex, you get it quickly.

One of the coolest new features about the SpeedFlex is the new Ratchet-Loc retention system that helps you adjust your chinstrap quickly and easily. With ridges in the straps that lock into place with proprietary tech from Riddell, you can just tug on the strap until it is in the proper position and keep moving. This helps with getting the helmet to fit right on your head and comfort in the chin. Safety is by far the most important aspect of the game in our eyes and getting your chin strap in the proper position consistently helps make your helmet safer for you.

Additionally, this helmet passed “The Test” and by that we mean the Virginia Tech Helmet Study. SpeedFlex got a 5-star rating, and although the VA Tech Ratings system has its flaws, it is sure as heck better to score 5-stars than not.

We can’t wait to see these out on football fields all over the world this spring, summer, and right into the season this fall.


The Gift of Gear

This year, give your favorite football players the gifts they really want: Football Gear. Shock him with an awesome pair of football receiver or lineman gloves in his stocking or even put a football helmet under the tree. It’s clear that football players have a deep attachment to the gear that they wear at practice and on the field, but the sight of brand new gear is something that resonates. Let him keep those NFL dreams alive this year.


Holiday Football Gear Sale

Coinciding with our sitewide holiday sale where you get $20 Off Orders Over $100, we are also running a holiday football sale that gives you 15% OFF FOOTBALL GEAR!

Holiday Football Sale

Whether you need a football helmet, shoulder pads, or just a wrist coach, this sale is for everyone who loves the game. No need for more explanation, 15% is the deal and it’s a deal worth taking!