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Shoulder armor is armor designed to protect one or both shoulders from harm. It has been used for various purposes throughout history, from protection in battle to protection in various athletic events. For any purpose, it is very important to protect the shoulders. They are large targets, and if they are damaged, the arms will likely not work effectively. Shoulder armor can be made from many different materials, including a variety of plastics and metals.
In medieval times, armor was worn both in battle and for ceremonial purposes. It was usually made from metal by a skilled blacksmith, and was often designed specifically for the body of the wearer. The specific nature of medieval shoulder armor varied; some was made of light leather to maximize mobility while some was crafted of thick metal to maximize protection. Generally, one wielding a bow would wear less constraining armor than one engaged in close combat with a sword or similar close-range weapon.
Modern soldiers also wear armor, though less emphasis is placed on shoulder armor because of the necessity for a wide range of motion. A modern soldier must be able to lift a gun to his shoulder, an action made difficult by heavy shoulder armor. More often, armor is arranged to protect vital areas of the body, such as the abdomen. It is made to protect an individual from bullets more than from sharp or blunt objects. Such armor needs to stop bullets and absorb the significant amount of kinetic energy carried in them without causing harm to the wearer.
Shoulder armor, though not widely used in modern battle, has a very prominent role in athletics and other recreational activities. Football players, in particular, wear a great deal of armor on their shoulders, as much of the blocking and tackling in football involves hard contact with the shoulders. The quarterback sometimes wears less constraining shoulder protection because he needs to be able to throw the ball over a great distance.
Participants in other sports and recreational activities also make use of shoulder armor. Because of the risky nature of the sport, those who race motorcycles often wear motorcycle armor. This includes armor worn on the shoulders, as a fall from a motorcycle could harm any part of the body. Mountain bikers on particularly difficult and rocky bike trails also wear armor to protect them from falls onto sharp rocks and hard ground.