NFL Referees: Serious Skills Required

November 22, 2018

When we tune into an NFL game, we’ve got our eyes on the players, not the officials. For all they do and all they have to know, they don’t get much attention. People in the stands cheer for the team and offer up a warm welcome for the cheerleaders; no one cheers for the people in in the striped jerseys. Yet it’s their skills and energy that provide the spirit and enforcement of fair play. Any long-time fan knows that great officiating is necessary for a great game.


A NFL referee must be in superior technical, mental and physical shape. The NFL rulebook is always evolving; officials study weekly and attend clinics to keep up. They need to be ever-ready to judge and rule on violations or penalties that can change weekly. They have to do this in front of 60,000 enthusiastic fans, millions more on TV. Mentally, they have to have very tough skin, applying quick decisions under tremendous pressure. They rarely receive kudos for a good ruling, but they’ll always be jeered, booed and otherwise vilified for an unpopular call.


Their physical condition is evaluated when they’re hired, because this is a job that requires stamina. They have to stay in excellent shape, because a NFL official runs on average six miles per game. Most of them come to the NFL in good shape, because they’ve refereed at the high school level for 10 years, followed by at least five years in college football. Maintaining a high level of fitness is not optional.


NFL players are not the only ones who get injured in the game. Every time a flag is thrown or a whistle is blown, one or more NFL officials are there, in the middle of the action. In 2015, in a Broncos-Ravens game, line judge Gary Arthur was hit from behind, and suffered a broken collar bone, nine broken ribs and a partially collapsed lung. This is one of the worst injures ever to a referee. Football players have gotten bigger, faster and stronger; it isn’t unusual for officials to get injured, sometimes seriously. Most injuries are to the leg, hip, or groin, involving muscles and tendons.


With all of the miles they put on their feet and legs, it’s no wonder more than 30 percent of NFL officials report chronic foot pain. Within guidelines for colors and design, NFL referees can choose what shoes they wear. Traction and stability are very important. Like the players, they do their best to avoid slipping on grass or artificial turf. Like any athlete, they need to ensure their feet are well supported and protected.


You don’t have to be a NFL official to appreciate how hours of running, bending, ball handling, and standing takes a toll on your feet. Custom-fitted orthotic inserts provide superior support, stability and comfort for tired, aching feet. Foot Doctor Orthotics’ team of experts has 25 years of orthotic design experience. Email or call 877-598-2471.