Do NFL Players Wear Rib Protectors?

As an NFL player, protecting your body from injury is absolutely critical. The intense physicality and constant collisions in football put players’ bodies at serious risk of harm. That’s why protective gear is so important. Helmets, shoulder, thigh, and knee pads are necessary for the game. Another vital protection that many NFL players utilize is the rib protector.

Rib protectors are specialized padding that helps shield a player’s ribcage and torso from heavy impacts during games and practices. They provide an extra layer of safety for one of the body’s most vulnerable areas. While not every player opts to use them, rib protectors offer valuable injury prevention that can help extend careers.

Why Do Players Wear Rib Protectors?

There are a few key reasons rib protectors are beneficial:

  • Absorb hits: Rib protectors cushion forceful blows to the midsection from other players. This dissipates the energy from collisions rather than directly striking the ribs.
  • Prevent fractures: By absorbing impacts, rib protectors greatly reduce the chance of fracturing or breaking ribs during play. Fractured ribs are extremely painful and can sideline players for weeks.
  • Protect vital organs: The ribcage houses critical organs like the heart and lungs. Rib protectors provide an additional buffer to keep these organs safe.
  • Avoid long-term damage: Repeated trauma to the ribs and midsection can lead to chronic injuries and pain. Rib protectors aim to minimize this accumulative damage over a career.

While bruising and soreness may still occur, rib protectors protect against more severe rib injuries.

What Types of Rib Protectors Do NFL Players Wear?

There are a couple of main styles of rib protectors used in the NFL:

Traditional Rib Protectors

  • These consist of padded shirts or vests worn under the shoulder pads.
  • They use straps, harnesses, or sleeves to hold them in place.
  • Offer full wrapping protection for the entire rib cage and torso.
  • Used by players across all positions.

Flak Jackets

  • Feature thick padded abdominal plates that hang from the shoulder pads.
  • Primarily protect the front rib area and abdomen.
  • Typically worn by quarterbacks and pocket passers.
  • Allow arms full range of motion for throwing.

Quarterbacks frequently utilize flak jackets since their rib cage is exposed after they deliver a pass. The jacket shields their midsection when following through on throws.

What Makes a Good Rib Protector?

There are several important factors to evaluate when selecting a rib protector:

  • Fit: It should fit snugly and not restrict motion. Measure your chest and get the right size.
  • Coverage: Look for full wrap-around coverage versus just front protection.
  • Padding: Select thick, high-density foam over thin padding. Multi-layer padding enhances protection.
  • Durability: Check for sturdy outer material that can withstand repeated hits.
  • Breathability: Modern rib protectors use ventilated, breathable fabrics to allow airflow.
  • Comfort: The protector shouldn’t dig into your skin or chafe. Straps and harnesses should distribute weight.
  • Position: Your position and needs will determine if a full vest or quarterback flak jacket is best.

Investing in a high-quality and comfortable rib protector improves safety without impeding performance.

Examples of NFL Players Who Wear Rib Protectors

Here are some notable examples of NFL players who integrate rib protectors into their protective gear:

  • Lamar Jackson – The Baltimore Ravens quarterback wears the Douglas rib protector, a popular choice among QBs.
  • Patrick Mahomes – The Kansas City Chiefs star quarterback wears a rib protector vest and an abdominal flak jacket for maximum protection.
  • Tom Brady – The legendary Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback has worn rib protectors for years to prolong his career.
  • Aaron Rodgers – The Green Bay Packers veteran quarterback opts for a front flak jacket rib protector.
  • Travis Kelce – The Kansas City Chiefs tight end wears a large Douglas rib protector to shield his midsection from linebackers and safeties.
  • George Kittle – The San Francisco 49ers Pro Bowl tight end utilizes a traditional full vest rib protector due to his rugged play.
  • Derrick Henry – The Tennessee Titans star running back wears rib protectors to absorb hits from tacklers.

Are Rib Protectors Required in the NFL?

While the NFL mandates certain protective equipment like helmets and pads, rib protectors are optional for players. Some veterans who have gone years without them opt not to add the extra padding and restriction. However, coaches and teams often encourage at least certain players to utilize rib protectors.

Quarterbacks are most commonly pushed to wear the extra protection by their coaches since they are in a vulnerable position when passing, and a rib injury can be season-ending. Rib protectors are simply viewed as an extra precaution to avoid broken ribs or internal organ damage. But ultimately, each player can decide based on their preference and risk tolerance.

How to Choose Your Rib Protector

Follow these tips when picking your gear:

  • Get professionally fitted at a sports equipment store for the right size.
  • Select full wrap-around coverage over front-only.
  • Prioritize breathable, lightweight, and flexible protectors.
  • For quarterbacks, assess whether a full vest or a flak jacket is preferred.
  • Make sure the protector fits comfortably under your shoulder pads.
  • Break it in during practices before using it for games.
  • Don’t sacrifice mobility – try a different option if it’s overly restrictive.
  • Replace protectors as soon as you notice padding breaking down.

These steps will ensure you get a rib protector you can confidently use to stay protected on the field.


Why do NFL players wear rib protectors?

NFL players wear rib protectors to shield their ribcages and midsections from the intense collisions every game. Rib protectors absorb these impacts and provide padding to avoid fractured ribs and internal organ damage.

What position wears rib protectors the most?

Quarterbacks are the players that most commonly wear rib protectors since their torsos are exposed when passing the ball. Many QBs wear specialized flak jacket rib protectors to protect their rib cage and abdomen when throwing.

Do NFL wide receivers wear rib protectors?

NFL wide receivers rarely wear rib protectors because they value maximizing speed and flexibility. The extra padding and restriction of rib protectors are seen as detrimental to their game which relies on quick cuts and acceleration.

Are rib protectors mandatory in the NFL?

No, the NFL does not mandate that players must wear rib protectors. Their use is optional for players, although teams often recommend them, especially for quarterbacks. Some veterans who have gone years without rib protectors choose not to wear them.

What brand of rib protectors do NFL players use?

Popular brands of rib protectors among NFL players include Douglas, Schutt, Riddell, Rawlings, Nike, and Under Armour. Many players use rib protectors made specifically by their equipment sponsors. Quarterbacks often prefer the Douglas brand rib protectors.


While not mandated by the NFL, many players elect to use rib protectors for the safety benefits they provide.

Quarterbacks and tight ends are particularly prone to rib injuries due to their roles, but any player can gain an advantage by protecting their torso.

As you progress in football, ask yourself if adding rib protectors to your gear could help minimize your injury risk and prolong your playing career.

Sophie Delatorre
Sophie Delatorre

I'm Sophie Delatorre, an experienced and trusted product review expert known for my in-depth and unbiased analyses. With over 10 years under my belt reviewing all types of consumer products, from tech gadgets to home appliances, I provide comprehensive feedback to help consumers make informed purchase decisions.

My specialty is putting products through rigorous real-world testing to evaluate quality, durability, ease of use, and overall value. I credit my background in consumer science and engineering for my meticulous eye for detail and technical know-how when breaking down a product's specs and performance.

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When I'm not busy buying and reviewing the latest products, I stay on top of consumer trends and innovations. My passion lies in helping everyday shoppers cut through marketing claims to find the best value products that will save time, money, and hassle.