The pads vs no pads debate has raged on for many a year. When you look at how players hit in both American Football and Rugby the pads definitely have an impact on the body angle and the part of the body that people use to hit.
Rugby players that watch American Football may think that it is easy. Anyone can hit as hard as they want with all that protection on. Well what you have to bear in mind is that each defensive player also knows where the protection isn’t! The way some of those guys monster each other has to make you wince.
On the other side of the coin, American Football players look at rugby players hitting each other as hard as they can and they can’t imagine for one minute doing that without pads. My dad was in the same hotel as the San Diego Chargers and got speaking to their head coach about rugby (this was a while ago). The coaches response was that ‘his boys would never do that, those guys are nuts not using any pads!’
With some high profile cases of ex-footballers suffering long term health issues that are related to the head knocks they took during their careers studies have been done into the impact of the collisions during a game. They showed that a tackle situation is putting the player through the same impact as a car accident, and that is huge!
The NFL have moved to try and combat that effect this is happening on players. No longer are players allowed to lead with their helmets, this prevents that head on head collision that can be so damaging.
Don’t think for a second that those rugby boys have it easy though. A study was done in New Zealand and found “ most of the recorded impacts have been around 10 to 20 G’s, with some up to 40 G’s. The average impact is 22 G’s.” To put this into perspective an F-16 fighter-jet roll is 9Gs and a car crash is 35Gs.
There is some padding used in rugby. Some players use shoulder pads, others have scrum caps. There was an argument that the players that wear scrum caps use them as a battering ram and lead with their head causing more injuries. Again the sport has moved to curb this and make the tackle situation safer.
Needless to say guys from both sports hit hard and know where to do the most damage, long may it continue!