4th January 2017.Aside from its unique rules of play and the huge level of physicality involved, there is one thing that separates American football immediately from almost any other sport ? the visual element. It's hard to deny that the look of an American football player is an iconic one. From the smooth, rounded helmet and the imposing facemasks to the distinctive shape of their protective shoulder pads, the amount of protective gear makes every player look visually impressive. Whether you or a child you know is interested in playing this sport, pulling together the right kit is essential. Without the proper protection, you shouldn't even think about setting foot on the gridiron! What should you have on your shopping list when you head to the athletic store, though? At first glance, it's not always easy to tell just how many different components make up the American football kit. Once you start breaking it down, it quickly becomes apparent that there are many elements to every player's uniform. Almost all of them play some important role during the game. If you're thinking about trying out and you want to start gathering up your gear, here's what you'll need to play the game safely.

The helmet and facemask, the most important items of all

There's no getting around the fact that a player's head is the body part the most at risk during every game of American football. american-football-kit-helmetThat is why the helmet is one of the most essential elements of the kit. Combined with a facemask to keep hands away from the player's face, they form the most integral part of the uniform next to the shoulder pads. Facemasks can have a lot of variety, with different shapes and patterns available, but helmets follow a strict standard. Look for helmets that come with an accreditation or a certification related to their safety testing. When choosing a helmet, select one that aligns well with the player's head circumference, feels comfortable, provides a good field of view. Combine with a built-in visor for enhanced visibility or sun shading effects to round out this purchase. After you've taken steps to protect your head, it's time to move on to the rest of your body.

Shoulder pads are an all-in-one protective solution

Despite their name, football shoulder pads aren't just for protecting the shoulders. They do provide a large amount of padding for american-football-kit-shoulder-padsthese areas, as players will use their shoulders to lean into players and for executing important blocks. However, they also provide protection for the chest and back, as the unit is entirely one piece. Once in place, shoulder pads should sit firmly on the body and should not be able to move from side to side at all. At the same time, they should provide adequate flexibility and freedom of movement for making plays. Given the number of body impacts a player will suffer throughout a typical American football game, the shoulder pads do much of the protective work. A player typically only has one set of shoulder pads, as they should be able to stand up to many games worth of punishment.

Protective girdles guard your legs and hips

Moving further downward, we arrive at the girdle?which is more like a full set of pants with built-in padding, as the girdle american-football-kit-girdleextends downward to cover the legs as a compression-like garment. They don?t only help to promote good circulation; they also protect the legs. Further up, especially around the knees and the hip areas, football girdles feature built-in padding, helpings to protect against the most common injuries that can occur when players go to the ground or experience a tackle from another player. Typically, a player wears uniform pants over their girdle. This is also the time to consider purchasing an athletic cup protector to provide important protection from blows to the groin. Not only can this side-line a player for several plays, but it's not fun to experience ? so the girdle and the cup go together hand in hand.

Good boots are a must-have on any field

The American football field is a unique environment, with several different types of turf that can make running on the surface a challenge. In a game where speed and agility are of the utmost importance, maintaining control of your body on the playing surface is vital. Just as "soccer" players wear boots to help their feet grip the pitch, so do football players. These boots often differ from those in other sports, however, by featuring different types of spikes and methods for gripping. Choosing boots is just as important as choosing your protective gear. They should both fit well and provide good grip, without the potential for causing too much damage to the field. You may need to experiment with a few different types of boots to find the right pair. When you start running in them, the difference will be clear.

A mouth guard can prevent a costly dental visit

Although the facemask and the helmet exist to prevent injuries to a player's face, rough impacts, dogpiles, and more can all create american-football-kit-mouthguardthe potential for problems. The last thing any player wants is to hit the ground chinstrap-first, rattling their teeth. Chipping or even losing teeth is a real possibility if a player chooses not to wear a mouth guard. For that reason, the rules often require that players wear a mouth guard to protect their teeth during play. You may choose a generic guard that you can purchase in an athletic store, or you may ask your dentist to create one for you. What matters is that the guard fits comfortably and snugly in your mouth and that you always remember to insert it before a play begins. While it can be frustrating to adjust to, it's worth the added safety.

Gloves are essential for certain positions and players

What about your hands? For some players, like the quarterback, it's better to be able american-football-kit-glovesto feel the ball to improve one's handling. For receivers and lineman who mostly must contend with carrying or catching the ball, rather than throwing it, grip is more important. The human hand simply can't match up to the same level of grip that you can achieve with an athletic glove. Today, most games and even the NFL allow for highly technical gloves to be worn, though there are some limitations. Choose gloves that fit snugly over your hands and act almost like a second skin. Practice making some catches with them. You'll see right away that it's much easier to grab the ball out of the air and hold onto it when you take off running. That's crucial for players who must handle the ball every few plays.

Fill your closet with compression apparel and more

While this covers most of the basics for the major on-field gear, don't forget there are plenty of items to wear on the sidelines and off the field as well. For example, players who expect to encounter cold weather will want clothing that helps them conserve body heat between plays. Compression apparel for everyday use will help to reduce inflammation and pain that results from the rough and tumble nature of the gameplay. Eyeblack, for reducing glare from the sun, and even sunscreen are also essential parts of the kit. Toss in accessories like water bottles, bandage wraps, and other extras, and you're well on your way to stocking a locker just like the one used by your favourite NFL player. American football players are always looking for new ways to improve comfort or performance during the game, so their kit evolves regularly.

All this equipment adds up to something bigger

Once you have everything and you start dressing for a practice session, it's obvious why you need so much equipment. You'll take a lot of hard knocks in an American football game, and you'll need to be able to get back up and get ready for the next play. All this helps prepare you for that moment. From the boots that help you keep your feet set in the turf to the facemask that keeps a defender's hands away from your head, it all comes together to create one very functional kit. Of course, many other accessories and items can come in handy, too ? be sure to ask about them when you make your next shopping trip.