Personal Protective Equipment in Sports: History and Future — ThermoPro

Noah Bubman
4 min readOct 28, 2020

With player and fan safety top of mind, teams are evolving to overcome a new set of obstacles.

A Brief History of PPE In Sports

Noting the obvious risks involved in contact sports like hockey, football and car racing, one would think we’ve used Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) on the playing field from the beginning. History tells us otherwise. Sports, in particular, have a checkered history when it comes to PPE. For many young men in footballs’ early days, the risks and injuries were exceptionally staggering.

  • Zero protective gear besides uniforms and shoes.
  • Sports authorities did little to prevent games from turning into violent bloodbaths.
  • Many men believed long hair was a reliable method of protecting themselves from head trauma.

In 1905, when the Chicago Tribune reported that 19 young football players died and over 137 had serious injuries due to contact on the playing field, we did not act immediately. Though President Theodore Roosevelt at the time likened football to the carnage of Roman gladiator combat, it took several painstaking decades before action was taken to make sports safer. Many players who opposed wearing helmets called their helmet wearing rivals “sissies”.

Fast forward to 1943, people finally had enough. The NFL made it mandatory for players to wear helmets on the field. This was a great step for the league and sent a message of safety to young and upcoming players.

Since the early days of football, protective equipment has, thankfully, evolved tremendously. And helmets specifically; we’ve seen the helmet evolve from a cobbled leather cap into a high-tech polycarbonate shell.

PPE and Sports Today

Today, our players have better protection on the field to mitigate injuries and provide a barrier between “a rock and a hard place” named Jermaine Johnson. However, there’s a new threat that goes beyond injury, the coronavirus.

As the nation deals with the coronavirus epidemic, a shockwave has hit sports teams over how to keep players safe and fans engaged. Entire stadiums are empty while the teams compete on the field. The scene is surreal, but nevertheless in the best interest of the fans — until we have proper safety measures in place.

Leagues Take Action To Protect Players

Professional sports franchises have adopted a rigorous set of protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Once they’ve deemed this a success for players, they will determine how to safely re-introduce fans into stadiums.

The current protocols being enforced for professional players are as follows:

  • Daily testing for coronavirus (with massive fines imposed for missed testing)
  • Wearing of Kinexion devices (a tech device which keep players socially distanced and has built-in contact tracing capabilities)
  • Strict guidelines for mask usage and social distancing when in restaurants and bars

There’s a lot up in the air regarding fan participation. It’s unclear if and when we will be allowed to attend games in 2020–2021. However, it is clear that there will be need to be specific systems in place for the physical safety of spectators.

What Will It Look Like When Fans Return?

We probably won’t see full stadiums for a while, but most franchises have committed to bringing back fans, at least partially, to start.

Sports teams will use some or all of these procedures:

  • Hand Sanitizer stations throughout stadiums
  • Crowd control; number of attendees and how people enter and exit the stadium will need to be thoroughly evaluated so that people don’t congregate for long periods of time
  • Barriers should be used wherever necessary. We will see new barriers in place at ticket booths, concession stands, bathroom barriers and possibly between seats.
  • Use of floor decals on walkways, walls, and parking areas to guide fans during the course of the event. Keeping people moving the same direction in high traffic areas.

ThermoPro Offers Protection For Fans and Sports Teams

As we work to safely re-introduce our national pastimes back into our daily lives, ThermoPro has hopped into the driver’s seat by creating a family of products which can help accomplish this goal. Imagine mass amounts of people herding into large venues in need of direction.

ThermoPro offers bright colored floor decals which are applied to floors and hallways to better guide and provide social distancing. Arrows, spacers, and more in custom shapes and colors.

Sports venues are also known for large-scale restrooms which fill quickly with people during breaks. We specialize in urinal extension bathroom barriers. These are unique in that they extend above shoulder height. In addition, they can be placed between sinks for added protection in an otherwise close area.

Standing in line at a concession stand? We also create custom protective barriers for point of sale and cashiers.

Changes don’t always come quickly. As we learned from the past, improving safety can be a hard won battle. Luckily, everyone will benefit from this PPE and we can now make quick and informed decisions about how to safely move forward. Contact us for a quote to help you open safely and get back to work, play or on with life.

Originally published at on October 28, 2020.



Noah Bubman

Entrepreneur, business professional, writer, nutrition minded, innovator, sustainably focused, Californian, and a believer that ideas are best when shared.