Parades, Turkey, Football, and…Plastics?

Even on the holidays, plastic injection molded parts play a major role in safety and innovation.

Can you believe it’s November? Where have the months gone…wasn’t it just July? Faint now is the distant memory of the buzz of mosquitos as the burgers have gone burning on the grill as you relish the sight of fireworks bursting in air.

It seems in a blink of an eye you went from the sound of waves at the beach to the sound of Christmas carols being piped in at every turn.  Undeniably, you recognize it, ‘tis the season!

So, of course, being with family and being thankful are a huge part of this time of year, and traditions definitely play a big part of the current season: Aunt Millie’s infamous Jell-o surprise, Uncle Dave’s aluminum tree being resurrected from the attic of his 1960’s childhood! Turkey and all the trimmings, followed up by the moans and groans as you regret having had that third buttered roll. Holding your mid-section in agony and slowly making your way to the recliner, the traditional siesta and football game are what follow suit for families all over America. And just like ours, your thoughts surely then turn to plastic! What? To plastic?

Ok, maybe not, but we were struck at how much plastic has meant to the game of football throughout the years and football is a strong tradition for so many of us; we thought it was worth taking a closer look! Early equipment in the 1920s, including shoulder pads and helmets, were constructed from leather and wool and usually crafted individually by the player. There wasn’t a mandate requiring protective gear; the discretion to even use gear while playing was left up to the player. The homemade contraptions were heavy and provided little to no additional protection at all. Fast forward to the 1940s and you will find the beginning of a new era within football. The 40s brought plastic helmets to the scene as the plastics industry began to pick up steam. The Riddell Company of Chicago manufactured the first plastic helmet in 1939, believing it was safer than the leather options that were being used on the field. Just think of how innovative this must have been at the time! The plastic frame was able to hold its shape when collisions occurred and included more padding and cushion for safety. The plastic helmet also included a plastic face mask, protecting the entire head. Though they were nothing compared to what players wear today, those helmets were literal game changers in protective sports gear.

The 60s and 70s brought the era of plastic shoulder pads. Soon the craftsman leather outfits were a thing of the past. Plastics were in! The use of plastic injection molded parts in protective gear allowed for a lighter, more durable option for players…which is a big deal when you are trying to out run a 330-pound defensive tackle. Today, we continue to improve and develop newer forms of technology to include in sports gear. The 90s’ bulky, cumbersome plastic padding has made way for sleeker, athletic padding in today’s game. Less plastic? Wouldn’t that mean less protection and more room for injury? Quite the contrary is true. Combined with modern advancements in synthetic materials, plastic injection molded parts like helmets and shoulder pads are more effective in protecting the players while improving their performance on the field. A single helmet can weigh less than 3 pounds! And that 3 pounds can mean the difference between playing safely and having long-term health and neuro issues. The seriousness of head injuries has really only come to the forefront over the last couple of decades though. In 2002, in response to the study of head injuries, Riddell developed a new helmet design called the Revolution. The Revolution was the first significant remodel in 25 years. NFL reporting showed a 24 percent decrease in concussions during the preseason and regular season, from 281 in 2017 to 214 in the 2018 season. The drop was particularly noteworthy in the regular season when the number of diagnosed concussions went from 190 in 2017 to 135 in 2018 … a 29 percent decrease.

Another area of plastic innovation is even more recent. Synthetic turf fields provide similar function to grass fields while maintaining usability all year long. The plastic fibers give the field a natural grassy look while offering a variety of customization to color and design. With manufacturing technology, the formation of these fibers and the soft plastic pellets of the infill provide players with gripping capabilities and other natural feeling characteristics similar to that of a grass field. 

So, yes, we know you thought it was a stretch to go from the holiday turkey to the holiday game to plastic, but it wasn’t, was it? Even your turkey may have a plastic pop-up timer!