Football face masks have drastically evolved over the years, from barb wire attached to cloth helmets, to sophisticated pieces of protective equipment made from strong, durable materials. The face mask is a very recognisable part of a football player's uniform, and one that is key to performance and safety. There are several types of football face masks, and players choose the one that is best suited for their particular position.
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Single and Double Wire
Single wire face masks are most often used by players who need maximum visibility, such as quarterbacks. There is no bar running from east to west on a single wire face mask, which allows players greater visibility.
On the other hand, double wire face masks are built for strength and durability, and are often used by linemen and other positions that block and tackle. The double wire face mask opening is smaller, which helps prevent players from getting struck in the face by other players' hands, fingers and feet.
U-Bar face masks are also referred to by some as a "bull ring". The U-Bar face mask is designed to minimise the possibility of hands, feet and fingers from hitting the nose of other players. Defensive backs, also known as cornerbacks and safeties, often choose the U-Bar style of face mask.
Players in certain skill positions, most notably wide receivers, ofter wear a face mask specially designed for them. In this style of face mask, the side bar is positioned at a deeper angle to allow for enhanced peripheral vision. Face masks for players in skill positions are also longer than other styles of face masks.
Football face mask manufacturers typically use abbreviations to denote the level of protection offered by a specific style of face mask. Those abbreviations include: NJOP, which means "nose, jaw and oral protection;" EGOP, or "eyeglass and oral protection," (a style of face mask used by players wearing corrective lenses) OPO, which stands for "oral protection only" and refers to a face mask that only guards the mouth; JOP, or "jaw and oral protection"; NOPO, which stands for "nose and oral protection only."
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