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News Link • Entertainment: Sports

These Carbon Fiber Shoulder Pads Absorb Even NFL-Sized Hits

•, By Tim Moynihan
The material is stronger than steel yet still incredibly light, a great combination for any activity where speed and range of motion are as important as protection. In recent years, carbon fiber has been used in golf-club shafts, batting helmets, lacrosse pads, bicycle frames, football cleats, Formula 1 race cars, and—of course—Oregon football helmets.

Russell Athletic's new carbon-fiber shoulder pads also happen to be the company's first pair of shoulder pads, period. The exoskeleton of the CarbonTek pads is a shell of aeronautical-grade carbon fiber, but that component only represents half of the system. In fact, the system's other important piece—a breathable, protective compression vest—was developed first.

That vest is packed with a network of golf-ball-sized, rubbery-foam bubbles, and it's noticeably heavier than the carbon-fiber shell that slips over it. Combined with the carbon-fiber exoskeleton, the compression vest is designed to disperse impact throughout the torso, supposedly making big hits feel less sharp at the point of impact. It's also designed to be used for base protection without the exoskeleton during non-contact drills.

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