Worn underneath shoulder pads and whatever other gear you prefer, modern padded football shirts provide some great protective features as well as benefits of high quality athletic apparel in general. Different brands such as EvoShield, Shock Doctor, and McDavid have relatively similar designs in regard to where exactly the protection is placed (at the ribs and often on top of the shoulders and lower back), but they can differ in the surface area of the pads, thickness, material, and technology. For example, McDavid's famed "HexPad" uses a blend of closed-cell foam and hDc compression material to absorb and disperse shock from impact on hits to vulnerable areas.
Although shoulder pads protect much of your shoulders, chest, and upper back, there are areas at which taking a hit could leave you suffering. Rib injuries are common in football, especially with the quarterback, but with some added coverage in that area as well as the spine, some of those blind-side hits sting less. The quarterback isn't the only player that can benefit from a padded shirt, wide receivers, running backs, and really, any player on the field will feel the benefits. This is why youth compression shirts are so important.
Choose between sleeveless and short sleeve shirts with rib protection for you or the young player you're shopping for. Sports Unlimited carries a variety of options in design, protection areas, protection style, and material. Staying healthy in youth football is vital to continuing to play the game well into high school and college and protecting those vulnerable areas is key.