Impact on the lower back is quite common in football. And needless to say, avoiding or minimizing shock on the field is a prerequisite for a long and successful football career.
Fortunately, manufacturers of football equipment have taken care of this issue as well. Most protective equipment brands today offer back plates – a special protective pad that is designed to protect your lower back, spine, and kidneys from impact.
Football back plates are exactly what I will be talking about today! More precisely, I am going to showcase what I think are the 10 best football back plates you can find on the market. In just a moment, I will be having an in-depth look into them to help you choose!
By the end of this guide, you will have hopefully found the right football back plate to protect your back on the field!
1. Schutt Sports AiR Maxx – Best For Comprehensive Lower Back Coverage
- TAKE THE PAIN OUT OF A BIG HIT: Designed with a...
- Strategically-placed vent holes for BREATHABILITY
- COLORS TO MATCH YOUR UNIFORM: Color customized...
- BUILT TO FIT Schutt Air Maxx shoulder pads
- DIMENSTIONS: 13 inches WIDE x 7 inches HEIGHT; max...
The Schutt Sports AiR Maxx football back plate boasts breathability along with a large size for good lower back coverage.
For breathability, the AiR Maxx football back plate features several “strategically-placed” vent holes, while the coverage is ensured by the 13” x 7” rectangular pad. Unlike many other back plates down the list, AiR Maxx’s rectangular shape delivers better back coverage.
What I also like about AiR Maxx is that it has plenty of mounting holes, so it should work with a wide variety of shoulder pads. And speaking of shoulder pads, this thing is specifically designed for Schutt Sports AiR Maxx shoulder pads.
All in all, I think that the AiR Maxx football back plate would be ideal for those who want maximum lower back coverage.
Some people may find the rectangular shape of this football back plate not as sleek and good-looking as the tapered shape of most back plates out there. But in terms of protection, AiR Maxx should be superior to typical designs.
2. Schutt Sports AiR Maxx TPU – Best For Protection
- TPU cushioning system replaced traditional foam...
- Designed with a durable plastic plate, complete...
- 13”(w) x 7”(h); max extension from shoulder...
- Fits all Varsity Schutt shoulder pads and most...
- One Size Fits Most
The AiR Maxx TPU features the same football back plate and straps as AiR Maxx, but it has a very different cushioning system.
The pads in AiR Maxx TPU are made of, well, TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane). TPU appears to offer better impact absorption than the EVA foam typically used in back plates. So if you want maximum protection, AiR Maxx TPU might be the best choice for you.
The TPU cushioning looks a little bit weird though, and it’s only available in one color – light blue. This only matters in terms of looks, but it may be a dealbreaker for some people.
Other than the cushioning, this is the exact same AiR Maxx I reviewed on the #1 spot, so there’s nothing new to add here. But do keep in mind that this football back plate is intended for Schutt varsity pads.
In the end, if you want something with great protection and good lower back coverage, I think that AiR Maxx TPU is worth a shot.
3. Schutt Sports Back Plate – Best Budget Football Back Plate
- Additional protection for exposed, blind side...
- High-Impact EVA foam padding absorbs the hardest...
- Breathable, lightweight mesh makes it ultra...
- Fits all Schutt football shoulder pads and most...
- Excellent added back protection for high impact
This football back plate from Schutt is a nice budget option (especially for owners of Schutt shoulder pads). Additionally, this back plate is a great choice for youth and varsity players.
At the basics, this shoulder pad is similar to AiR Maxx – it again has vent holes for breathability, and some options have the familiar rectangular shape. However, with its youth and varsity sizes, this model is aimed at the younger football player.
What’s also different in this Schutt football back plate is quality. Noticeably cheaper than AiR Maxx and AiR Maxx TPU, this back plate can’t boast the same build and mounting hardware quality. The mounting hardware tends to get loose with time, so you may want to replace it. Not a big deal, but still.
What I also like about this football back plate is its color options. They are flashy and very visible on the field, which might be an advantage for some players.
But keep in mind that the price of this back plate may vary depending on size, shape, and color, so be careful with what you are choosing.
In the end, this Schutt back plate is a fine option for youth or varsity players who want something on the cheaper end.
4. Douglas Custom Pro CP Ceries (4-Inch) – Best For Adult Douglas CP & SP Shoulder Pads
The Douglas Custom Pro CP Series football back plate is perfect for adult Douglas CP and SP shoulder pads. Aside from that, it’s a great option if you are ready to pay the price for quality.
As quite a pricey back plate, the Douglas back plate offers quality superior to many other options on the market. With that, I’d expect it to maintain its protection levels longer.
Another thing I love about the Douglas Custom Pro football back plate is adjustability. It has plenty of mounting holes, allowing you to adjust the height of the back plate to suit your stature.
However, notice how close together the shoulder straps are situated. Due to this, this back plate probably won’t work with most shoulder pads out there. It’s best for Douglas SP/CP shoulder pads, as well as other pads with similar mounting hole layout.
Note that this particular football back plate is designed for players who are shorter than 6’2”. For those who are taller, Douglas recommends the larger 6-inch variant with the same exact features.
In conclusion, if you are an owner of Douglas CP or SP adult shoulder pads, this back plate is your best bet. It fits those shoulder pads wonderfully, and its quality is excellent too.
5. Gear Pro-Tec Z-Cool Varsity – Best Varsity Football Back Plate For Low Budgets
- Features Z-COOL's patented moisture transfer...
- 3-D Air Flow and evaporative cooling foam system
- Reinforced vented inner plastic
The Gear Pro-Tec Z-Cool is a great choice if you are looking for an inexpensive varsity football back plate.
Despite the cheap price, the Z-Cool back plate has a few interesting features. The cooling system is the highlight of this football back plate – it’s designed to keep you cool and to promote the evaporation of moisture.
In practice, it’s difficult to tell how well the evaporation feature will work for you, but it’s still notable.
Thanks to the four mounting holes on each strap, the Gear Pro-Tec Z-Cool back plate offers a wide range of height adjustments as well. This back plate should fit most shoulder pads on the market too, and it works with nearly all Gear Pro-Tec pads (except for Z-Cool OL/DL and X3 Skill).
All in all, the Gear Pro-Tec Z-Cool back plate offers remarkable cooling performance at a low price. But remember that at this price point, you probably won’t be getting much durability.
6. Gear Pro-Tec Razor – Best For The Youth
Sized at about 9.5 x 6 inches, the Gear Pro-Tec Razor football back plate is an excellent choice for the youth. This is a rather high-quality piece of football equipment too, so it should be able to take quite the beating on the field.
The Razor back plate employs a kind of foam called HEX for protection. The corrugated shell is designed to absorb impact too, adding more protection and extending the back plate’s service life.
All in all, in terms of protection, Razor seems to be very good for the money. But it has one small downside – it doesn’t have vent holes and thus probably won’t be as comfortable on the field as other back plates on the list.
Like the Z-Cool football back plate, this model fits most shoulder pads on the market. But it’s ideal for Gear Pro-Tec shoulder pads, and it’s specifically designed for RAZOR and Z-Cool pads.
With that, Gear Pro-Tec Razor offers great value for the buck and is ideal for young football players.
7. Battle Sports Back Plate – Best If You Want To Make A Statement
- High-impact foam interior
- Curved design for max energy disbursement
- Universal fit
- Hardware included
- Adult size fits individuals 5'4"+ and...
I love this football back plate from Battle Sports for its unique color options, though it has plenty of other things to boast about as well. If you want to stand out on the field, then the Battle back plate might be the best choice for you.
I particularly like the gold variant of this back plate, but the white/red with Pennywise’s ominous face looks super-cool as well.
What also catches the eye in this back plate is its thick foam protection. This is one of the thicker back plates on the market, and you could expect much better impact protection from it than from my other picks. But it also may be heavier.
The build quality here is also great – as expected for the price. The mounting hardware – particularly the screws – is kind of bad though. The screws tend to get loose and break, so you may want to replace them with something better.
The adjustability of the Battle back plate is great too thanks to the 3 x 2 mounting hole layout on each strap.
All in all, the Battle football back plate is a great choice if you want something eye-catching on the field. The quality and protection here are outstanding as well.
8. Xenith Back Plate – Best For Xenith Shoulder Pads
- The XFlexion Back Plate provides lower back...
- Attaches to all Xenith shoulder pads and most...
- Attaches with durable and adjustable coated nylon...
- Available in sizes Small (Youth) and Large...
This back plate from Xenith is a great choice for Xenith shoulder pads. However, even if you have pads from other brands, this back plate should still work with them.
The highlight of this football back plate is the adjustable straps. The back plate has a few mounting positions for the straps, allowing you to adjust the strap spacing. This way, the Xenith back plate should be able to work with most pads on the market, even the Douglas pads with their narrow mounting hole spacing.
The quality and the build of the Xenith back plate are great as well. In fact, at its price point, this is one of the most highly-rated back plates you can find (at least, on Amazon).
In conclusion, the Xenith back plate is a great high-quality option for owners of Xenith shoulder pads. But don’t worry if you have pads from other brands too – thanks to the adjustable straps, this back plate should work with most shoulder pads on the market.
9. Shock Doctor Back Plate – Best For Staying Cool
The Shock Doctor back plate is a fine choice if you want something high-quality and breathable.
Although we have had a few other breathable options previously (Gear Pro-Tec Z-Cool and the third Schutt back plate), I think that this football back plate is the overall best breathable option on this list thanks to its quality and protection level.
What I also like about the Shock Doctor back plate is its design. I think that the Battle back plate I reviewed earlier looks better, but the Shock Doctor plate also has a few cool styles and colors to choose from.
In the end, if you liked the breathability of Gear Pro-Tec Z-Cool and the #3 Schutt back plate but want something higher-quality, the Shock Doctor plate might be your best bet.
10. Riddell Sports Back Plate – Best For Riddell Shoulder Pads
- Chrome Finish
- Use with shoulder pads for additional lower back...
- Universal fit attaches to most shoulder pads
- Hardware included
- Measures approximately 11 1/2"W x 8"H
Lastly, we have the Riddell back plate, which is a great option for Riddell shoulder pads. Aside from that, some people may like its vintage design. I personally like the sleekness of previous back plates more, but this is very subjective.
Design aside, the Riddell back plate offers great quality and thick foam for protection.
The height adjustability of the back plate is great too, and the size is also intended to fit most players. Though for really big- or small-bodied players, the sizing might be off.
But if the size turns out to be just perfect for you, the triangular shape of this football back plate will provide great lower back coverage.
I strongly recommend this football back plate for Riddell pad owners, though it should work with shoulder pads from other brands as well.
Other Useful Football Articles
Our Buying Guide
Now, to help you understand the reviewed back plates a little better, I am going to talk about the most important features to consider when shopping for a football back plate.
Football back plates are fairly simple products and are easy to shop for, but my buyer’s guide might still provide you with a few useful tips!
Size & shape
First up, consider the size and shape of the desired back plate. The size and shape are important because:
- They determine how well the football back plate covers your back.
- They determine how well the back plate fits your height and body shape.
When it comes to coverage, the larger, the better. You should pay attention to the physical dimensions of the back plate and make sure that it is going to be sufficient to protect your lower back and kidney area.
As for fit, football back plates typically come in junior and varsity sizes, though some brands may offer other sizes too. Check out the back plate’s size chart to choose correctly.
As an example of a great back plate in terms of shape, I’d probably recommend Schutt Sports AiR Maxx. It’s large and rectangular and should ensure great coverage of your lower back.
Weight & protection
Next, consider weight and protection.
The reason why I listed weight and protection in a single section is because they are somewhat related. All else equal, a football back plate with thicker, denser, and more protective foam padding is going to weigh more.
Besides, there frankly isn’t much to cover when it comes to back plate protection. Football back plates typically use EVA foam for shock absorption and have very simple designs. Basically, the thicker the foam, the better impact absorption you get.
With that, you will have to choose between performance and protection on the field. If you want to minimally lose your speed, then you will need to go for a lighter back plate and sacrifice some protection.
My personal recommendation for protection would be Schutt Sports AiR Maxx TPU. This thing uses innovative TPU cushioning that seems to offer great shock absorption.
The Battle Sports Back Plate with its thick padding is also great, but it might be a little heavy for some people.
Durability is pretty important in football back plates as well. I can pinpoint two reasons for this:
- A durable back plate will maintain its physical integrity and aesthetics longer.
- A durable back plate will be able to provide consistent levels of protection through use.
Unfortunately, identifying a durable back plate can be difficult, especially when shopping online. You can’t touch the back plate, feel its stitching, and check the quality of the fabric and straps.
In the meantime, stitching and the overall quality of the fabric and the padding are very important in football back plates.
When shopping online, the two most practical criteria of quality are price and buyer reviews. More expensive back plates typically have better quality, while buyer reviews will reveal to you any quality control or durability issues present in the football back plate.
If you’ve ever bought football equipment in the past, then you may also stick to familiar gear brands. Within a brand, quality typically stays consistent through years, so you should be safe if you find one good brand and buy only from it.
I’d say that you should be pretty safe with all my picks, but the Douglas Custom Pro CP Ceries back plate might be the best of them all. It only fits a handful of back plates, but it’s a great choice if you want excellent quality and durability.
Mounting hole layout
The mounting hole layout might be neglected by some football players, but it’s actually pretty important to consider.
As you might have noticed from the reviews, some back plates have a single column of mounting holes on each strap, while others have a pair of columns. Obviously, if you have four sets of vertical mounting holes, the football back plate will fit a wider variety of shoulder pads.
Apart from that, some back plates have three horizontal sets of mounting holes on the straps, while others have only two.
Basically, the more holes you have, the wider range of shoulder pads your back plate will work with. Additionally, you will have a wider range of height adjustments for the back plate.
In terms of height adjustability, the Battle Sports Back Plate is probably the best on my top thanks to its 3 x 2 mounting hole layout on each strap.
Shoulder pad compatibility
The spacing between the mounting holes on shoulder pads and back plates can differ significantly, so you should also pay attention to shoulder pad compatibility.
True, back plates have flexible straps, so you may attach any back plate to any shoulder pad. But you may have to twist and bend the straps a lot to attach the back plate to your pads, which may negatively affect the straps’ durability. Plus, the back plate may not sit snugly against your back.
Shoulder pad compatibility probably isn’t that big of a deal, but if possible, you should use an inter-compatible set of shoulder pads and back plates. This will make your life easier and ensure that the back plate sits snugly against your back.
Typically, back plates and shoulder pads from the same brand combine with each other wonderfully. Some brands also specify which shoulder pads their back plates are designed to work with.
I feel that the Xenith Back Plate is the best in terms of shoulder pad compatibility. This is thanks to its adjustable straps – not many back plates out there can boast this feature.
With the back plate sitting against your back throughout the game, your lower back is very likely to get sweaty. There is no way to eliminate sweating, but you may be able to reduce it by buying a breathable back plate.
Breathable back plates have perforations in the fabric to promote airflow. These aren’t going to make you feel super-cool during the game, but you certainly won’t get as hot as you would have without any vent holes. So if possible, do choose a back plate with vent holes.
Style & colors
Finally, consider style and colors.
Needless to say, these play zero role in the protection level of a football back plate. However, If you care about style even a little bit, then you will want to match your back plate with the rest of your protective attire.
By the way, in terms of aesthetics, sticking to a single brand for all your protective equipment is ideal too.
Personally, I liked the looks of the Battle Sports Back Plate the most. It’s also available in youth and adult sizes, so it should work for most athletes.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does a back plate do in football?
The purpose of a back plate is to protect the lower back, kidneys, and spine of football players from impact. Back plates hang down from your shoulder pads and cover your lower back area to provide protection.
How do you attach a football back plate?
Football back plates are attached to the bottom of your shoulder pads from behind. Back plates typically come with mounting instructions, but generally, here’s how they are attached to shoulder pads:
– Locate two holes on the bottom of your shoulder pads back.
– Line the holes on the back plate straps with the shoulder pad holes. The back plate straps may have multiple sets of holes to allow you to adjust how high the back plate is on your back. The back plate should be mounted so that it covers your lower back.
– Align the holes and use the included hardware – usually screws, T-nuts, and washers – to mount the back plate to the shoulder pads. Make sure to install the football back plate from the inside of the shoulder pad’s backplate.
Do wide receivers wear backplates?
Wide receivers receive a LOT of lower back hits. With that, wide receivers do wear back plates.
By the way, any football position can benefit from a back plate. Football involves a lot of contact, so every bit of extra protection is crucial.
Not every football player wears back plates because of their bulkiness and weight. But if you aren’t willing to sacrifice on-field safety for added speed and lightness, you should wear a back plate.
How much is a football back plate?
Generally, expect to pay around $50-$60 for a high-quality football back plate. Depending on your needs and budget, you may also shop for a much more expensive or a much cheaper back plate.
How to Make the Right Selection
In the end, if you are frequently getting hit in your lower back area, a football back plate is simply a must-have.
As a recap, when shopping for a back plate, pay attention to:
- Quality and durability.
- Protection level and weight.
- Size, shape, and fit.
- Compatibility with shoulder pads.
- Comfort and breathability.
Not only that, but try to understand your needs to make the right choice. If you are replacing an old back plate, are there any aspects that you would want to improve? If you are a first-time back plate buyer, what are you most worried about?
Answering these and other questions should allow you to make the right choice fairly easily.
Now, I’d also like to hear your feedback. Do you have any experience with the back plates I featured? Or perhaps you have some unanswered questions? Let me know in the comments below!