By Dan Guttenplan, FNF Coaches Managing Editor
Kyle Martinelli, head equipment manager at the University of Delaware, is responsible for all equipment and apparel maintenance and reconditioning for the football team. He offers 10 safety tips for managing equipment and apparel for a football program.
- Helmet and shoulder pad reconditioning. Martinelli and his staff sent the team helmets and shoulder pads back to the supplier once a year for reconditioning. Any helmet that passes the test is reused the following season. If a helmet is rejected, it can no longer be used in the field of play.
- Helmet fitting. The University of Delaware rule is that each athlete should be fitted for a helmet eight times during a four-year career. A player will be fitted at the start of each fall and spring season. The equipment staff measures each player’s head size, identifies the appropriate helmet, and then begins the process of fitting looking for surface contact to ensure there is no space between the head and padding. Surface contact is where the process always begins.
- Chin strap fitting. “The chin strap is one of the most important parts of the fitting process – if not the most important,” Martinelli said. “It anchors the helmet to the jaw line. If it’s too loose, the helmet will not have a secure environment around the head during impact. It’s just as important as measuring the surface contact because it keeps the helmet secure and fastened.”
- Shoulder pad fitting. Martinelli starts by taking an AC measurement across the shoulder plane. He then does a chest measurement. Once he selects a pad size, customized for that player’s position, he tests to make sure the pad is firmly above the AC joint on each side of the body. Ensure that the shoulder pads are not pinching the neckline and provide full pectoral coverage.
- Sanitizing pads. Martinelli’s staff does a bi-weekly sanitation of hard goods and equipment to avoid the spread of germs, including MRSA. The sanitation efforts take place pregame and postgame, so Mondays and Fridays. The Delaware staff uses Clear Gear Sports Spray to disinfect the equipment.
- Sizing Cleats. Manufacturers of cleats typically set weight parameters for each model. In other words, Delaware’s supplier, adidas, will make a different type of shoe for athletes 240 pounds and up. “If the manufacturer says it does not produce for an athlete that size, it’s injury-prone,” Martinelli said. Be sure to measure each player’s foot (length and width) with a Brannock device, and be sure he is wearing a shoe designed for his weight class.
- Rib protection. All of the University of Delaware quarterbacks are required to wear a full rib pad, which is an extension from the shoulder pad. The running backs are required to wear back-flaps, and all other skill position players are encouraged to wear them. When a specific player has a rib injury, Martinelli and his staff recommend EvoShield rib protection.
- Knee and thigh pads. University of Delaware players wear a girdle that includes pads over each knee, each thigh, each hip and one on the tail. “That’s something we’ve adopted,” Martinelli said. “Not everyone does it. I think we’ve benefitted over the years in terms of avoiding thigh bruises and knee injuries. Our guys probably don’t even realize it’s helped, but I think it has.”
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