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Adult vs. Youth Football Shoulder Pads Comparison

Sports Unlimited is proud to release the first 2 football shoulder pads under its brand name. The Prospect and Prospect Pro are the first of their kind and offer great quality lightweight pads at a truly affordable price.

The Differences

It may be an easy choice in selecting which shoulder pad is right for you because you are clearly shopping for an adult or a youth player, but sometimes players are in between and could go with either option. It also can be helpful to understand some of the distinctions between the youth and adult pads in general. Not all youth pads are alike and not all adult football shoulder pads are alike, but using the Sports Unlimited Prospect options we can get a good sense of what some of these differences are.

Two of the very first things you'll notice are price and weight. Generally, boys' shoulder pads are going to be cheaper than adult ones. This is because they are generally smaller and lighter (using less materials). That doesn't mean that youth pads are not as safe as adult ones, but that the players hitting and getting hit are smaller than their adult counterparts, which means less needs to go into the pads. This allows us to create pads that are lighter for the youth players to wear so they aren't carrying a lot more pad weight as a ratio of their body weight and in turn less expensive because the players will likely grow out of their youth pads more quickly.

Another aspect that you will notice simply from looking at the two examples above is that on the Prospect Youth, the EVA foam extends well below the hard plastic shell whereas on the adult those two protective pieces end at a similar point. This extended body length provides more lightweight coverage on youth players. Right around that area is another point of distinction: the strapping systems. Sports Unlimited has built the Prospect Youth with elastic straps for a super-lightweight and flexible fit that's easy for kids to just stretch and hook on. The Prospect Pro doesn't use the same kind of strap system, but a stronger biothane belt system that allows players to choose which belt hole to use for a sturdy and snug fit.

The Similarities

Some things need to be consistent with football shoulder pads regardless of who is using them and in the design process, Sports Unlimited chose some of the most vital features to include in both youth and adult versions of the pad.

Some of these things you can see immediately from just looking at the pads. You can spot the 7mm vent holes in both pads hard shell to increase breathability because overheating on the field will cause fatigue and dehydration. You'll notice that the vent holes aren't identically placed because the shape of the pad is different, but are strategically placed on each pad to be as effective as possible for ventilation and cooling. Along with that both pads use the same breathable mesh over the foam padding. These features to prevent overheating have shown to be incredibly important to players regardless of climate and that's why they are included on these two pads along with most shoulder pads that are currently available.

It may not be as easy to tell just by looking at these two football pads, but both adopt a low-profile, flat-pad design that improves range of motion and mobility regardless of what position you're playing on the field. This flat-pad design spurns the cantilever and keeps the pads low without losing protection. Both of these pads are great lightweight options for any position on the field because of their design. You're likely to already know which pad to opt for based on your age and league and we recommend not overthinking it. If you're a youth player, go with the youth pads and if you're an adult or high school player go with the adult pads.