Headgear, shoulder pads and braces: Are they worth it?

With contact, sports comes contact injuries, despite our best efforts to prevent them there is always an element of risk when we let our kids run out on the footy field to let them enjoy the sports they love doing.

If there is anything we can do to help prevent those bumps and bruises we would surely do it right? There is no shortage of marketing out there for protective equipment and there seems to be a guard for every possible area for the body. So should you invest or are you wasting your money?


Made popular by the likes of Jonathan Thurston and Matt Giteau, they are designed to reduce the amount of force that is placed on the head and reduce the risk of concussion. Well that’s the theory – here are the facts:

  • They are proven to aid in the prevention of cuts and abrasions taking place on the skull
  • There is no evidence to support the theory that they will reduce the risk of concussion – this is because it’s not the initial impact that leads to concussion, it’s the brain movement inside the skull that causes the damage (place an egg inside a tupperware container and drop it – no amount of padding on the outside of that container will change the fate of the egg)

My verdict: Whilst not effective at reducing the risk of concussion it may avoid the need for stitches

Shoulder pads

Designed to help prevent shoulder injuries and assist in tackle technique by reducing the force placed upon the shoulder with each tackle. Here are the facts:

  • There is no evidence that shoulder pads will prevent dislocations or significant hard tissue injuries to the shoulder e.g. collarbone fractures
  • However, they may help prevent bruising and force placed on soft tissues (muscles)

My verdict: Worth it – if they are in a position requiring a lot of tackling and contact i.e. forwards

Braces: Shoulder & Ankle

These braces are designed to help prevent ankle sprains and shoulder dislocations

  • Braces are shown to aid in the prevention of RE-injury however it appears not useful to prevent first-time injuries
  • If your child is deemed to be ‘at risk’ of these types of injuries due to a high degree of joint flexibility they may also be worth the investment

My verdict: Worth it – if they are returning from an ankle sprain or an instability injury to the shoulder or have been deemed in a high-risk category by your Physiotherapist.

Written by

Tim O’Grady

Tim is a Physiotherapist who specialises in football/Rugby and golfing injuries. Tim doesn’t believe that rest will make you a better athlete and he focuses on performance-based rehab methods. Tim is also qualified in golf biomechanics and injuries.

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