10 Best Football Back Plates to Protect Your Spine and Boost Your Performance

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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, football equipment manufacturers have also taken care of this issue. Most protective equipment brands today offer back plates – a special protective pad 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 will showcase what I think are the ten best football back plates you can find on the market. In just a moment, I will look in-depth into them to help you choose!

By the end of this guide, you will hopefully find the right football back plate to protect your back on the field!

Schutt Sports AiR Maxx – Best For Comprehensive Lower Back Coverage

Schutt unisex adult AiR Maxx Back-Plate for Shoulder Pads…
  • 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 and 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. AiR Maxx’s rectangular shape delivers better back coverage than many other back plates down the list.

I also like that AiR Maxx has plenty of mounting holes, so it should work with various shoulder pads. And speaking of shoulder pads, this thing is designed explicitly for Schutt Sports AiR Maxx shoulder pads.

Overall, I think 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. But in terms of protection, AiR Maxx should be superior to typical designs.

Pros

  • Has plenty of mounting holes.
  • Perfect for Schutt Sports AiR Maxx shoulder pads.
  • Vent holes for breathability.
  • Large in size and has good coverage.

Cons

  • I haven’t found any while testing

Battle Back Bone Back Plate – Best Football Back Plate For Youth & Adults

Battle Sports Novelty Back Bone Plate – Back Plate, Rear Lower…
  • HIGH-IMPACT FOAM INTERIOR: The football back plate…
  • CURVED DESIGN: The curved design of the back…
  • UNIVERSAL FIT: The football backplates offer a…
  • HARDWARE INCLUDED: The football back plate…
  • DESIGN OPTIONS: Made in a high gloss finish and a…

First, I was impressed by the quality and durability of the back plate. It is made of robust and flexible plastic that can withstand much pressure and force. The thick and soft foam padding provides a good cushion for your lower back. The attachment straps are also sturdy and adjustable, allowing you to secure the back plate close to your back and prevent it from sliding or shifting.

Secondly, I liked the design and appearance of the back plate. It has a curved shape that follows the natural contour of your spine and hips, making it more comfortable and ergonomic than flat back plates. It also has a variety of colors and patterns to choose from, such as American flag, gold/black, chrome, etc. I personally preferred the black/white one, which matches well with my uniform and helmet.

Thirdly, I noticed a difference in my performance and confidence on the field. The back plate gave me a sense of protection and security, knowing that my lower back was shielded from potential injuries (which are common in this sport).

I felt more aggressive and fearless when tackling or being tackled by opponents, as I knew the back plate would absorb most of the impact. I also felt more stable and balanced, as the back plate helped me maintain a good posture and alignment.

Overall, the Battle Back Bone Back Plate is an excellent product for football players who want to protect their lower back and enhance their game. It is well-made, comfortable, stylish, and practical.

Pros

  • High-impact foam backing that cushions your lower back
  • Curved design that disperses impact and fits comfortably
  • Strong attachment straps that keep the back plate close to your back
  • Variety of colors and patterns to suit your preference
  • Sense of protection, aggression, and stability on the field

Cons

  • A bit pricey compared to some other back plates
  • It may not fit well with some shoulder pads or jerseys

Schutt Sports Back Plate – Best Budget Football Back Plate

Schutt Sports Football Ventilated Back-Plate for Shoulder Pads,…
  • Ventilated padding engineered from high density…
  • Provides unmatched comfort and protection on the…
  • Fits all Varsity Schutt shoulder pads and most…
  • 5 mm vent holes to help circulate air
  • 12 ½ ”(w) x 6 ¼ ”(h); max extension from…

This 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 back plate is the 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 back plate is its color options, and they are flashy and obvious 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 choose.

Ultimately, this Schutt back plate is a fine option for youth or varsity players who want something cheaper.

Pros

  • Rather pocket-friendly.
  • Available in youth and varsity sizes.
  • Breathable.
  • Plenty of flashy color and shape variations.

Cons

  • The included mounting hardware tends to get loose with time.

Schutt Sports AiR Maxx TPU – Best For Protection

Schutt Sports AiR Maxx Football Back-Plate for Shoulder Pads,…
  • 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 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 offers better impact absorption than the EVA foam typically used in back plates. So if you want maximum protection, AiR Maxx TPU might be your best choice.

The TPU cushioning looks a little bit weird, though, and it’s only available in one color – light blue. This only matters regarding looks, but it may be a dealbreaker for some people.

Besides the cushioning, this is the same AiR Maxx I reviewed on the #1 spot, so there’s nothing new to add here. But remember that this back plate is intended for Schutt varsity pads.

Ultimately, if you want something with excellent protection and good lower back coverage, I think AiR Maxx TPU is worth a shot.

Pros

  • Ideal for Schutt varsity shoulder pads.
  • Plenty of mounting holes.
  • Excellent impact absorption, thanks to TPU pads.
  • Vent holes for added breathability.
  • Large size.

Cons

  • Aesthetics isn’t the strongest suit in AiR Maxx TPU.
  • Only one color option.

Douglas Custom Pro CP Series (4-Inch) – Best Football Back Plate For Adult Douglas CP & SP Shoulder Pads

Douglas 4″ Back Plate – Black/Black
  • U.S.A. Made
  • Extra Lower Back Protection
  • Extra grommet holes allows for adjustment
  • Removable
  • Douglas has a hard-hitting strategy for pad…

The Douglas Custom Pro CP Series 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 back plate is its 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, and it’s best for Douglas SP/CP shoulder pads and other pads with similar mounting hole layouts.

Note that this particular back plate is designed for players under 6’2″. Douglas recommends the larger 6-inch variant with the same features for taller people.
In conclusion, this back plate is your best bet if you own Douglas CP or SP adult shoulder pads. It fits those shoulder pads wonderfully, and its quality is excellent too.

Pros

  • Perfect for adult Douglas CP and SP Series shoulder pads.
  • Great build quality.
  • The mounting holes offer plenty of height adjustment.
  • Several color options.

Cons

  • Pricey.
  • The straps are placed close together, so this back plate won’t work with many shoulder pads.

Gear Pro-Tec Z-Cool Varsity – Best Varsity Football Back Plate For Low Budgets

Sale
Gear Pro-Tec Z-Cool Varsity Back Plate
  • 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 low price, the Z-Cool back plate has a few exciting features. The cooling system is the highlight of this football back plate – it’s designed to keep you cool and promote moisture evaporation.

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. This back plate should fit most shoulder pads on the market, and it works with nearly all Gear Pro-Tec pads (except for Z-Cool OL/DL and X3 Skill).

Overall, the Gear Pro-Tec Z-Cool back plate offers remarkable cooling performance at a low price. But remember that you probably won’t get much durability at this price point.

Pros

  • Fits most shoulder pads on the market.
  • Very inexpensive.
  • Pretty good adjustability.
  • Cool and breathable.
  • The evaporative cooling system keeps you dry.

Cons

  • Only available in black.

Gear Pro-Tec Razor – Best Football Back Plate For The Youth

Gear Pro-Tec Razor Back Plate, Small Black
  • SAS-TEC foam insert safeguards the spine…
  • Corrugated exterior shell absorbs impacts to…
  • Compressed HEX foam side panels offer comfortable…
  • Universal T-nut and screw attachment fit most…

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 relatively 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, 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 slight downside – it doesn’t have vent holes and 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 designed explicitly 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.

Pros

  • Fits most shoulder pads.
  • Great for the youth.
  • Solid build quality.
  • Great protection and shock absorption.

Cons

  • It might be less breathable than other back plates.

Nxtrnd Football Back Plate – Best For Staying Cool

Sale
Nxtrnd Football Back Plate, Professional Football Backplates for...
464 Reviews
Nxtrnd Football Back Plate, Professional Football Backplates for…
  • Made With NXT-Foam – NXT-Foam is our custom molded…
  • Curved Shape – The curved shape of the Nxtrnd…
  • Vented Design – The vents on the back plate keep…
  • Size & Fit – The Nxtrnd football back plate fits…
  • Hardware Included – Each Nxtrnd Back Plate package…

The Nxtrnd back plate is a fine choice if you want something high-quality and breathable. 

Although we have had a few other breathable options (Gear Pro-Tec Z-Cool and the third Schutt back plate), I think this back plate is the best breathable option on this list, thanks to its quality and quality protection level.

What I also like about this model is its design. I think the Battle back plate I reviewed earlier looks better, but the Nxtrnd plate also has a few cool styles and colors.

Ultimately, if you liked the breathability of Gear Pro-Tec Z-Cool and the #3 Schutt back plate but want something higher quality, this might be your best bet.

Pros

  • Adult and youth sizes are available.
  • Light and breathable.
  • Great build quality.
  • Has cool color schemes.

Cons

  • The included screws tend to get loose and need to be tightened often

Riddell Sports Back Plate – Best Football Back Plate For Riddell Shoulder Pads

Riddell Premium Chrome Back Plate Medium
  • Use with shoulder pads for additional lower back…
  • Universal fit works with most shoulder pads
  • Hardware Included

Lastly, the Riddell back plate is a great option for Riddell shoulder pads. Aside from that, some people may like its vintage design. I 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 the sizing might be off for really big- or small-bodied players.

But if the size is perfect for you, the triangular shape of this back plate will provide great lower back coverage.
I strongly recommend this back plate for Riddell pad owners, though it should also work with shoulder pads from other brands.

Pros

  • Great for Riddell shoulder pads.
  • Great quality and protection.
  • Suitable for both adults and youth.
  • Unique vintage design.

Cons

  • I am not a fan of this plate’s design.
  • The size might not be right for small- or big-bodied players.

Xenith Back Plate – Best For Xenith Shoulder Pads

Xenith Back Plate (Black, Large)
  • Dynamic: Fit with two durable attachment straps…
  • Protective: Varsity and Professional athlete’s…
  • High Impact: Strong vented padding contours the…
  • Breathable: Xenith backplates are stitched with…
  • Cooling: Heatsinks and vented material keep…

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 Xenith back plate’s build are also great. 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; thanks to the adjustable straps, this back plate should work with most shoulder pads.

Pros

  • Perfect for Xenith shoulder pads, but it will also work with pads from other brands.
  • Adjustable nylon-coated straps.
  • Available in youth and varsity sizes.
  • Excellent quality.

Cons

  • Only available in black.

Best Football Back Plates – Our Buying Guide

To help you understand the reviewed back plates, I will discuss the most important features to consider when shopping for a football back plate.

Football back plates are relatively simple and easy to shop for, but my buyer’s guide might still provide helpful tips!

Size & shape

First up, consider the size and shape of the desired back plate. The size and shape are essential because:

  • They determine how well the 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 ensure that it will 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 lower back coverage.

Weight & protection

Next, consider weight and protection. A crucial element to make football safer for everyone. 

The reason why I listed weight and protection in a single section is because they are somewhat related. All else equal, a back plate with thicker, denser, and more protective foam padding will weigh more.

Besides, there frankly isn’t much to cover regarding back plate protection. Football back plates typically use EVA foam for shock absorption and have very simple designs. The thicker the foam, the better impact absorption you get.

With that, you must choose between performance and protection on the field. If you want to focus on speed, you must go for a lighter back plate and sacrifice some protection.

My 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 is also great with its thick padding, but it might be a little heavy for some people.

Durability

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 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, the fabric’s overall quality, and the padding are fundamental 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 any quality control or durability issues in the back plate.

You may stick to familiar gear brands if you’ve ever bought football equipment. Quality stays consistent throughout the years within a brand, so you should be safe if you find one good brand and buy only from it.

You should be pretty safe with all my picks, but the Douglas Custom Pro CP Series back plate might be the best. It only fits a handful of back plates but is a great choice for excellent quality and durability.

Mounting hole layout

Some football players might neglect the mounting hole layout, but it’s 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. The back plate will fit various shoulder pads if you have four sets of vertical mounting holes.

Apart from that, some back plates have three horizontal sets of mounting holes on the straps, while others have only two.

The more holes you have, the broader range of shoulder pads your back plate will work with. Additionally, you will have a wider range of height adjustments for the back plate.

Regarding 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 consider shoulder pad compatibility.

True, back plates have flexible straps so that 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 a big 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 the back plate sits snugly against your back.

Typically, back plates and shoulder pads from the same brand combine 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 regarding shoulder pad compatibility, and not many back plates can boast this feature thanks to its adjustable straps.

Breathability

With the back plate sitting against your back throughout the game, your lower back will likely 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 don’t make you feel super-cool during the game, but you won’t get as hot as you would have without any vent holes. So if possible, do choose a back plate with vent holes.

The Shock Doctor Back Plate is a great pick if you want to stay cool. Consider the Schutt Sports Back Plate and Gear Pro-Tec Z-Cool Varsity if your budget is limited.

Style & colors

Elliott wearing a football back plate

Finally, consider style and colors.

These play zero roles in the protection level of a football back plate. However, If you care about style a little bit, you will want to match your back plate with the rest of your protective attire.

In terms of aesthetics, sticking to a single brand for all your protective equipment is ideal too.

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 football players’ lower back, kidneys, and spine 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:

1. Locate two holes on the bottom of your shoulder pads back.
2. 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.
3. 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 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 extra protection is crucial.

Not every football player wears back plates because of their bulkiness and weight. But you should wear a back plate if you aren’t willing to sacrifice on-field safety for added speed and lightness.

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.

Picking The Best Football Back Plates – How to Make the Right Selection

Ultimately, a football back plate is a must-have if you frequently get hit in your lower back area.

As a recap, when shopping for a back plate, pay attention to the following:

  • Quality and durability.
  • Protection level and weight.
  • Size, shape, and fit.
  • Compatibility with shoulder pads.
  • Comfort and breathability.
  • Style.

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 you want to improve? What are you most worried about if you are a first-time back plate buyer?

Answering these and other questions should allow you to choose fairly quickly.

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!

Brad Smith
Brad Smith
Brad Smith has been coaching high school Football for 6 years in Florida. He and his wife have 3 beautiful children who he hopes will become the first Jaguars to win a Superbowl. Other than Football, Brad loves American litterature, parenting, gardening, and home remodeling.