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WONDER BURG, WARRENSBURG, MO., FRIDAY, SEPT. 7, 2012

L L A B T O O F MULES ▲

Helmet: No, a helmet is not a glorified hard hat. The Mules wear helmets with inflatable pads for a solid fit, plastic visor to protect eyes and quick-release face guard system to deal quickly with head injuries. The Spartans, like the Mules, wore a helmet with an open face, as shown by actor Gerard Butler in “300,” but Sparta lacked plastic visors, and metal helmets tend to dent when struck.

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The model: Thanks to senior Darin Buford, 21, Alma, a Mules assistant who helps wide receivers recall plays and takes them through individual skill drills. Buford poses to shows off elements of the uniform.

J.C. VENTIMIGLIA/Wonder Burg photo illustration

wide receiver pivots at the line and leaps for the football while a 220-pound ▲ linebacker attacks, making contact at 25mph, turning the airborne receiver topsy-turvy and leaving him sprawled with Shoulder Pads: Reminiscent of one foot on Vermedieval armor designed to non Kennedy protect arms and Field and the back while also other in Wonallowing freedom der Burg. of movement, School colors the Mules’ armor and logos canalso is designed for protection. Note how not protect a dreamstime.com one pad overlaps receiver’s skull or spine from the other at the shoulder on both catastrophic, types of armor. Riddell pads are mano-y-mano designed to protect against AC impact. Proinjuries. Metal armor is designed to keep arms attached. tection comes from something most fans know little about – top-quality body armor. Darin Buford, 21, Alma, is savvy about football. He puts Mules receivers through their paces; helps Practice Girdle: The them recall plays. girdle, or practice pants, He knows his stuff. offers built-in padding. But Buford fumbles Light, flexible foam padwhen trying to ding is not as thick as describe protective game padding because attributes of the players are not supposed team’s Riddell Revoto hit each other as hard. lution Speed helmet. Mules equipment manager Jake Douglas, 24, is all about gear. He talks in detail about safety features of three key pieces of Mules armor: • A helmet that is so much more than a hard hat, • Shoulder pads reminiscent of medieval plate armor, and • Pants with pockets for inserting thick foam pads.

Like battle helmets worn by the ancient Spartans of Greece, or Boba Fett in a galaxy far, far away, the “Revo Speed” provides a guard to cover the face partially – enough to protect, but also enough for the wearer to see approaching combatants. Unlike Spartan headgear, Revo Speed comes with release snaps for instant face guard removal. The feature is critical, Douglas says, when a player hits the turf with a possible head injury. “It makes it easier for the paramedics to get inside (the helmet).” In a wrestling match – and that fits the description of what goes on at the bottom of pileups during a game – a finger in the eye is common. Douglas says a clear, plastic visor helps protect eyes. Visors cannot take much abuse, with most recycled after about six games, but players want them. “Most of our guys would like one, but I only give them to the ones I like,” Douglas says, looking serious for as long as he can hold a smile – not long. The shiny polycarbonite shell bearing the Mules logo protects the skull, but under the “plastic” the headgear is more complex, containing an inflatable back, neck and side liner, and a crown liner. Think of a hard hat, or an old football helmet, and how they fit too loosely or too tightly? Douglas says inflatable pads address those issues. “All the pads inside can be inflated to foam-fit the head. That prevents concussions.” The better the fit, the better the job the helmet does of protecting the head. Chinstraps help, too. If an elbow, knee or shoulder slams a player in the face at the same time his loose

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Armor worn by Mules football warriors plays critical safety role on battlefield

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Game Pants: Once upon a time, uniform pants did little more than cover legs. Then came strap-on pads. These pants contain pockets, and the thick pads designed to protect legs slide into those pockets. Leg protection is nothing new for warriors. At left is a Staatliche Antikensammlungen greave – protective leg armor worn by Spartans. This one dates to about 500 B.C.

WONDER BURG, WARRENSBURG, MO., FRIDAY, SEPT. 7, 2012

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