The effects of hard and soft rib protector garments on throw performance and lower trunk kinematics of quarterbacks during overhand football passing and flexibility tasks
Walker, Marika Ayana
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Rib protectors may help reduce rib injuries to American football quarterbacks, but players may not wear them if perceived to or actually do hinder athletic performance and trunk mobility. The best method for assessing rib protectors’ influence on maximal trunk mobility is unclear. For sub-study #1, the purposes were to determine if hardness of two rib protector garments affected lower-thoracic axial-rotation kinematics, performance, and athletes’ perceptions; and whether perceptions improved after performing a football throwing task. For sub-study #2, the purposes were to determine which flexibility type (active-assisted, maximal speed, self-selected speed) demonstrated the highest flexibility values for trunk lateral flexion and axial rotation, and if rib protectors affect trunk flexibility. Twelve male quarterbacks completed rib protector perception scales before and after ten maximal effort-accuracy throws and flexibility tasks in two directions (lateral flexion, axial rotation) for each rib protector condition: soft-rib, hard-rib, and control (compression shirt). Axial-rotation kinematics, performance measures, and perception scores of each rib protector were compared to control using non-inferiority testing (group and within individual comparisons) for throwing. Neither rib protector was inferior to control for axial kinematics or performance, but hard rib mobility was perceived to be inferior before and after throwing. Though 11/12 individuals had inconclusive results for most measures (117/168 individual non-inferiority tests), the remaining rib protector outcomes for individuals varied. Outcomes of the rib protector x flexibility protocol repeated measures analysis of variances (n = 11) and Fisher’s LSD posthoc tests demonstrated that, for both rib protectors, the protocol displaying the highest flexibility value for lateral flexion was the self-selected speed and for axial rotation, maximal speed and active-assisted. Subsequent non-inferiority testing of the rib protectors showed that neither rib protector was inferior to control for lateral flexion, but axial rotation was inconclusive. Both sub-studies showed that both rib protectors can be recommended, as neither appeared to hinder quarterbacks’ performance, lumbo-thoracic kinematics, or lumbo-thoracic mobility. Therefore, individuals should choose the rib protector best for them.