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Protective gloves for association football goalkeepers

An explanation of the European standards applicable to goalkeepers’ gloves.

Image © Salajean | Dreamstime.com

We are probably most familiar with association football (soccer) in the context of national leagues and international competitions such as the World Cup and the Olympics. However, the game is also enjoyed by many non-professional players – for example, in school and at local league level. Indeed, it can truly be said to be ‘the’ world sport.

Many types of gloves for soccer goalkeepers are only designed to provide the player with a ‘catching-aid’ which is intended to facilitate catching and, subsequently, holding the ball. However, there are now also some gloves which are being designed to provide goalkeepers with additional protection to the hands – particularly the fingers. These specific types of protective gloves incorporate stabilising and/or stiffening elements (for instance, braces or splints) that are intended to reduce the risk of fractures by restricting the flexing under impact of joints beyond their natural range of movement. In addition, the construction of the gloves is designed to provide protection against injuries to the hand (or parts of it), such as torn capsules, broken fingers, and sprained fingers or wrists.

In Europe, a glove intended to provide protection to the wearer falls within the scope of the European Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Regulation. Unlike standard goalkeeper gloves which are not considered to be PPE (as they are not primarily intended to offer any protection against injury to the wearer), glove designs which do incorporate these additional protective features are considered to be PPE. As such, they must fully comply with the requirements specified in the PPE Regulation if they are to be sold in Europe. Consequently, these goalkeepers’ gloves need to be CE marked as part of the EU type-examination process under the PPE Regulation.

Test standards

The current harmonised European standard for testing soccer goalkeeper gloves is EN 16027:2011. This standard is specifically for goalkeepers’ gloves which incorporate these stabilising and/or stiffening elements. As such, the gloves are assessed for the performance of the associated protective properties, as well as taking into consideration the comfort and fit elements of the products. The standard also requires the chemical safety properties of the materials used in the end products to be assessed. These materials are tested in accordance with the additional innocuousness requirements specified in EN ISO 13688:2013, which include pH value, chromium VI, azo colorants, nickel content, and PCPs, as well as against the REACH requirements.

Figure 1: The EN 16027:2011 stiffness test uses a single tension spring inserted into each of the four fingers of the glove, excluding the thumb

Physical testing

The main tests in EN 16027:2011 are the stiffening and impact tests. The stiffness test assesses the flexibility of the stabilising and stiffening elements, by inserting into each of the fingers of the glove (excluding the thumb) a single tension spring and then positioning it on a hinged test apparatus (figure 1). The glove is then fixed into position with a holding bar loaded with a weight of either 6kg or 8kg, depending upon the size of the glove. A pivot table lever is then raised to flex the fingers to an angle of 30 degrees and the force required to hold the lever in this position is measured. The minimum and maximum force requirements permitted by the standard is dependent upon the size of the glove being assessed. This specific test has been designed to ensure that the gloves are flexible enough to enable adequate movement of the fingers, but also to ensure that they are not so flexible during use that they provide inadequate protection to the fingers.

The impact strength test assesses the stabilising and stiffening elements of the goalkeeper’s gloves against mechanical impacts. This is assessed by dropping a spherical-shaped striker onto the stabilising and stiffening elements in the glove at two different points: the base joint of the fingers on the back of the hand, and the area of the second finger joint on the palm side of the glove. This test is conducted while the glove is positioned over a steel anvil tube, and includes the visual assessment of the stabilising and stiffening elements for any breaks or splinters. The impact energy is 45 joules for gloves of size 7 and above, and 25 joules for gloves smaller than a size 7.

Apart from these properties, the standard also requires an assessment of whether the goalkeepers’ gloves suit the size of wearer they are claimed to fit, as well as a restraint test to ensure that the gloves remain in place while in use.

According to the standard, the sizing system of soccer goalkeepers’ gloves is to be based on the numerical hand size of the end-user for which the gloves are designed to be suitable. As such, the size of the glove shall be defined according to the requirements specified in the standard EN 420:2003+A1:2009, which specifies the minimum length that each glove size shall provide. All sizing and ergonomics templates and assessors are based on this measurement.

EN 16027:2011 also requires that an ergonomics assessment is carried out to ensure that there is no unacceptable restriction of movement when worn by the end-user. It also checks that the goalkeeper can catch and punch a ball away while wearing these specific designs of glove. A restraint assessment is conducted to ensure that the glove remains in place during use when a force of 15N is applied to the glove at various points, as well as a check that the product does not contain any rough, hard or sharp edges that may cause discomfort or injury to the wearer or others during normal use.

The standard also includes minimum requirements for the content of the labelling or marking. It also highlights the information which all PPE suppliers should provide to ensure that their products are correctly used, and that wearers are fully aware of the level of protection that is being offered.

Further information on SATRA's PPE certification and testing services is available at www.satra.com/ppe

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SATRA has the facilities and test equipment to conduct all aspects of football goalkeeper glove testing in accordance with EN 16027:2011, in addition to the assessment of chemical safety and certification of products against the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Regulation. Please email ppe@satra.com or further information.