Where padding happens

April 9, 2010
by Justin

What started out as a trend in the NBA has now officially found its way into the NCAA. This year’s NCAA tourney featured many of the players wearing some form of undergear protection.  The national championship game featured a battle of the big men between Brian Zoubek and Matt Howard, in which both stars featured some version of a padded arm sleeve, some version of padded compression short, and some version of really bad facial hair. This was all at first glance of course. Looking back at the tournament I don’t think you can name one star player who wasn’t wearing some level of protective undergear. CNN recently reported that “Adidas outfitted both Kansas and Notre Dame, among other schools,” with their version of undergear called Techfit. Protective padding was introduced to Professional Athletes not to long ago and now appears to be making its way into the college ranks.

The first NBA star to wear some kind of protective padding was the original Superman, a.k.a. Shaquille O’Neal. Today, it seems as though Dwight Howard is seen wearing his undergear more than his actual Jersey, he now films commercials with it on instead of his uniform. Today you will find many of the stars of the NBA wearing protective padding as it is incorporated into their gameday uniforms. Such stars include Kobe Bryant, Dwayne Wade, Derrick Rose and Lebron James.  While many probably believe Nike or Adidas started this trend it was really McDavid a mid sized company headquartered in Woodridge, IL.

McDavid “started back in 1969 when Robert F. McDavid designed and developed what was to become the first widely used protective knee brace in football”. Since then, their knee braces have certainly become a staple product in the sports medicine industry. And just as they were the pioneers then, McDavid once again finds themselves at the forefront of a revolutionary new product with the introduction of the HexPad® introduced in 2004. Since its introduction the market has seen a meteoric rise which is evident by the introduction of products manufactured by Nike, Adidas and Under Armour (Nike’s ProCombat, Adidas TechFit® and Under Armour’s MPZ® ).

So how do these products compare and work? Well Adidas uses the padding more as a supplement while promoting it stated intended purpose, the TechFit technology. Which on their website states, “TechFit is designed to improve joint alignment, muscle balance, and posture. Plus it links key muscle groups together to maximize power generation”. All of the products boast in one way or another increased protection at “key contact points” while maintaining a lightweight and dry feel. Does one product perform better over another? Does the protection really work? It may be too soon to tell, Nike just introduced their line within the last year. Adidas is using a slightly different approach by not focusing on the padding protection by itself, but instead focusing on their Techfit technology. In either case, the new market segment appears to be gaining momentum and expanding into other sports. Just recently, Adidas unveiled Techfit uniforms for three MLS teams while also announcing new uniforms for Liverpool FC. Likewise, Nike is now outfitting several NCAA college football teams, most notably University of Miami and TCU.

So I guess the real question is do these products truly serve their purpose or is this part of a large issuer and that is a growing trend towards injury protection of athletes?

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