As the summer is winding down, the 2014 football season is gearing up. Whether you are rooting for your favorite pee wee team or following the pros, did you know that petrochemicals play a key role in this favorite American pastime?

The first American football game was played in 1869 between Rutgers and Princeton. The game has evolved since then and so has the uniform and protective equipment – “bye bye” leather helmets and minimal padding and “hello” to using petrochemicals for protection.

Today’s helmets are made from polycarbonate (a type of plastic) shells with foam padding consisting of polystyrene (made from the petrochemical styrene), polypropylene (made from the petrochemical propylene) or ethylene vinyl acetate (made from the petrochemicals ethylene and vinyl acetate) inside. Football helmet design continues to evolve as helmet companies are focused on new engineering designs which utilize petrochemicals and will greatly reduce the number of concussions which occur in today’s game. In addition, mouth guards often made from ethylene vinyl acetate can help protect the mouth from potential damage from collisions. They are also designed to absorb the shock of impact to the head.

Petrochemicals play a role in the protective padding worn by players. Most shoulder pads are made of shock absorbing foam material with a hard outer plastic shell (made using petrochemicals). Hip and tailbone pads are made using high density polyethylene which is a plastic made from the petrochemical ethylene as a starting material. Thigh and knee pads are made of petrochemical based plastics and are inserted into pockets constructed inside the football pants to provide an additional layer of safety. Football jerseys and pants are usually made from nylon and spandex (courtesy of petrochemicals).

Uniforms aside, petrochemical based products also are used in multiple places on the field whether it is the kicking tee, the football field markers used by the refs or the padding used around the goal posts. About half of all NFL teams currently play their games on synthetic turf which consist of “grass” blades often made from petrochemical based materials such as polyethylene (made from the petrochemical ethylene) and polypropylene (made from the petrochemical propylene). The turf requires minimal resources and maintenance while saving millions of gallons of water each year and eliminates the need for fertilizer.

Let’s give a big cheer for “petrochemicals” this football season.

Melissa Hockstad

Posted by Melissa Hockstad

Melissa Hockstad is the former Vice President of Petrochemicals for AFPM. To learn more about AFPM, visit AFPM.org.