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When determining which shoulder pad is the most appropriate, it is helpful to consider the level of play the player engages in. In general, when hitting is not allowed bulky pads are not necessary. A great example of this is in the Mite division and other non-checking leagues. Many players in these leagues prefer a little less protection to allow for a greater range of motion provided by lower model shoulder pads. This will also allow young skaters to learn the fundamentals of the game without the restriction of movement.
Another factor to take into consideration is the skater’s position and role on the ice. Advanced pads allow skaters to enjoy blocking shots without risking injury to the heart or chest area. Defensemen playing in pro or travel leagues may prefer a higher model of protection for the impacts taken in front of the net and in corners. Another type of player that may enjoy the benefits of higher model pad would be “grinders”, or players that spend time a lot of time battling along the boards.
In order to properly fit a player for shoulder pads, check to see that the shoulder is laying in the center of the shoulder cap. If the shoulder does not find itself resting in the center of the cap then the player risks dislocating or breaking the clavicle bone. Next, check that the pads do not shift out of place when pulled upon. Shoulder pads will move during play, but it is important that the protection moves with the body and not away from areas in need of protection.
Players should examine the protection in the clavicle area. The clavicle area tends to be one of the most vulnerable parts of the body during play. Players with a previous history of clavicle injuries should wear an intermediate or advanced pad. If the skater is going to be in the corners a lot then Discount Hockey suggests an intermediate to advanced level of protection as well because padding may shift during contact and create dangerous situations. An advanced pad will include a reinforced clavicle guard with dense foams and with plastic inserts to withstand collisions, slashes, and pucks.
The last, and possibly the most important, is the spine protection. When playing in a league that involves body checking it is imperative to have adequate protection for the skater’s spine. Racing for pucks in the corners can create opportunities for injuries. Many times there will be a player following another player closely and pushing them into the boards in order to gain body positioning. The spine protection will help protect against these blows that are usually absorbed by the body.