Why Do Football Players Wear Towels? -7 Practical Reasons Explained

John Rizzo

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Football Players Wear Towels

Football, with its high-octane intensity and physical demands, showcases players clad in helmets, pads, and jerseys. Yet, amidst this armored spectacle, one often wonders about the role of a seemingly inconspicuous accessory: the towel. 

Football players, from the NFL to high school fields, are frequently seen with towels in tow. These unassuming pieces of fabric, often draped over their shoulders or tucked into their waistbands, serve a range of essential purposes. 

Beyond mere fashion statements, football towels play pivotal roles in sweat management, grip enhancement, hydration, injury mitigation, secretive communication, personal style expression, and even psychological comfort. 

Unveiling the hidden significance of these towels unveils the intricate layers of strategy and tradition woven into the tapestry of football culture.

What Is a Football Towel?

A football towel is a small, absorbent piece of cloth typically made of terry cloth or microfiber material. It serves as a multifunctional accessory for football players. 

These towels are often draped over players’ shoulders or tucked into their waistbands during games and practices. 

While seemingly unassuming, football towels play crucial roles in moisture management by helping players wipe away sweat to maintain clear vision, enhance grip on the ball in various weather conditions, and facilitate hydration by providing a means to cool down. 

Additionally, they can be used for injury management, discreet communication, personal style expression, and providing psychological comfort on the football field.

7 Reasons Why Do Football Players Wear Towels

Football players often wear towels for various practical reasons. These seemingly simple pieces of cloth serve several important functions on the football field, helping players stay comfortable and perform at their best.

Here are the reasons why football players wear towels:

Sweat Management

Sweat Management

The physical intensity of football causes players to perspire heavily. During a game, dripping sweat can blur vision, causing discomfort and hindering performance. 

Towels serve as a quick and effective way to wipe away sweat, ensuring that players can maintain clear sightlines on the field and stay focused on the game.

Grip Enhancement

A secure grip on the football is crucial for both ball carriers and passers. In adverse weather conditions, such as rain or snow, the football can become slick and hard to handle. 

By using towels to keep their hands dry and free from moisture, players can significantly reduce the risk of fumbling or mishandling the ball, which can be game-changing in critical situations.


Staying hydrated is vital for optimal athletic performance. Football players often use towels to cool down by wetting them with cold water and draping them over their heads or around their necks during breaks in the action. 

This helps regulate body temperature and provides some relief from the scorching heat that can prevail on the football field.

Injury Management

Football is a physically demanding sport with a high risk of minor injuries like cuts, scrapes, and abrasions. 

Towels can be used to cover and protect these injuries, preventing further irritation or potential infection. 

Additionally, players might employ towels to apply pressure to stop minor bleeding or to clean and sanitize wounds to reduce the risk of infection.


Towels can serve as a discreet means of communication on the field. Quarterbacks, in particular, may use towels to hide their hand signals or mouth their calls during audibles. 

This helps keep their intentions secret from the opposing team, making it harder for defenders to anticipate their moves.

Style and Tradition

Beyond their practical purposes, towels have become an integral part of football culture. Players often choose towels in their team’s colors or with their own personal branding. 

These towels are not only functional but also serve as a way for players to express their individuality and team loyalty. 

They have become iconic accessories that contribute to a player’s distinctive image on and off the field.

Psychological Comfort

The rigors of football, both physically and mentally, can be taxing on players. For some, having a towel with them provides a sense of comfort and familiarity. 

It can serve as a security blanket of sorts, offering psychological support and helping players stay composed and confident throughout the game. 

The simple act of grabbing a towel during a break can provide a moment of respite and focus in the midst of intense competition.

When Do Football Players Wear Towels?

Football Players Wear Towels

Football players wear towels during various stages of a game or practice to address different needs and preferences.

Here are some common situations when football players wear towels:

During Warm-Ups

Towels are commonly seen during pre-game warm-up routines. These exercises often generate early sweat, making towels essential for wiping away moisture and ensuring that players are comfortable and focused as they get ready for the game’s physical demands.

On the Sidelines

Players on the sidelines use towels strategically to stay dry and comfortable. Whether draped over their shoulders or wrapped around their necks, towels help manage sweat, making it easier for players to stay mentally sharp and ready to re-enter the game when needed.

During Breaks

Football games are punctuated by timeouts, halftime, and other breaks. During these moments, players use towels to wipe away sweat, dirt, and grime accumulated during the action. This helps them stay refreshed and ready to perform when the game resumes.

After Tackles or Plays

Particularly in the trenches, linemen frequently find themselves in intense physical battles. After each play or tackle, they may use towels to wipe away the sweat and debris that accumulates, maintaining visibility and comfort for the next play.

In Inclement Weather

In rainy or muddy conditions, towels are invaluable for keeping hands and the football dry. A dry ball is essential for maintaining a secure grip and accurate passing, especially for quarterbacks and receivers.

For Injury Management

Towels have a functional aspect in addressing minor injuries. Players can use them to cover small cuts or scrapes, preventing further irritation or infection. Towels can also be employed to apply pressure to control minor bleeding wounds.

As part of Personal Style

Towels are not just practical; they can be a statement of personal style. Some players choose towels that match their team’s colors or incorporate unique folding and wearing techniques to express their individuality and team loyalty.

As a Form of Communication

Towels can serve as tools for discreet communication on the field. For instance, quarterbacks might use towels to hide their hand signals or lip movements while calling plays, preventing the opposing team from deciphering their strategy.

For Hydration

Wetting towels and draping them over the head or around the neck during breaks can help players cool down. 

This is especially beneficial in hot and humid conditions, allowing players to regulate body temperature and stay hydrated.

Football Players’ Quirky Towel-Related Superstitions

Football Players’ Quirky Towel-Related Superstitions

Superstitions are a fascinating aspect of sports culture, and football players are no exception when it comes to quirky towel-related superstitions.

Here are a few examples:

Lucky Towel

The attachment to a “lucky” towel often goes beyond just using it for games. Some players may carry their lucky towel with them to team meetings, practices, and even off the field. 

Washing or replacing the towel can be met with resistance, as they fear it might disrupt their winning streak.

Color Matters

Color symbolism can be deeply ingrained in a player’s superstition. They may associate specific colors with success, personal strengths, or historical victories. A player choosing a green towel, for example, might see it as a symbol of growth and prosperity.

Pre-game Rituals

These rituals involving towels can be highly intricate. Players might meticulously fold their towel a certain way or have a specific order of steps when tucking it into their gear. 

These rituals often provide a sense of comfort and control in the midst of the unpredictable nature of sports.

Towel Tug-of-War

The towel tug-of-war between teammates can become a lighthearted tradition that helps players bond and build team unity. It’s a moment of shared laughter and camaraderie amidst the seriousness of competition.

Towel Placement

The precise location of a player’s towel can be meticulously chosen. Some might insist on having it in a particular spot on the bench or sideline, believing that its placement influences the outcome of the game.

Towel-Waving Fans

Engaging with fans through towel-related gestures not only serves as entertainment but also fosters a sense of connection between players and their supporters. Players might believe that positive energy from fans can impact the game’s outcome.

Towel as a Good Luck Charm

The belief in a towel as a good luck charm can be so strong that players may refuse to step onto the field without it. It’s a source of mental reassurance, providing a feeling of readiness and invincibility.

Towel Talk

When players mention their towels in interviews or social media posts, it can be a way to acknowledge their superstitions and connect with fans who may share similar beliefs. It can also be a form of self-motivation, as talking about their towel reinforces its importance in their minds.


Do all football players wear towels, or is it a personal choice?

It’s not mandatory, but many football players choose to wear towels during games and practices based on personal preference and comfort needs.

Do towels have specific materials or designs that make them more suitable for football players?

Football towels are typically made of absorbent materials like terry cloth or microfiber to effectively manage sweat and moisture. Some may feature team colors or logos, but functionality is the primary focus.

Can football players use any type of towel, or are there regulations governing their use?

While there are no strict regulations regarding the type of towel, players must adhere to league rules and equipment guidelines, ensuring that towels do not pose safety risks or interfere with the game.

Are there rules about how football players can wear towels during games?

Generally, players have flexibility in how they wear towels, but they must avoid using them in a way that could be considered unsportsmanlike conduct, such as taunting or distracting opponents.

Do football players often change their towels during a game, or do they stick with one throughout?

It varies from player to player and depends on factors like weather conditions and personal comfort. Some players may change towels during the game if they become excessively soaked with sweat or dirt.

To Recap

In football, where every detail and advantage matters, the simple towel emerges as a multifunctional ally. Football players wear towels not merely as accessories but as indispensable tools.

These unassuming pieces of cloth serve to manage sweat, maintain grip, and offer comfort in the heat of the game. They become symbols of personal style, superstitions, and psychological comfort, intertwining practicality with tradition. 

While the reasons for wearing towels may vary from player to player, their significance is undeniable. 

In a sport where victory often hinges on split-second decisions and physical endurance, football towels are a testament to the meticulous preparation and unwavering dedication of the players who don them on the gridiron.

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John Rizzo

I am a professional rugby player in the Washington DC-Baltimore area. I have been playing rugby for over 10 years and have had the opportunity to play in many different countries. I am also a coach for both youth and adult rugby teams. I graduated from Johns Hopkins University with a degree in Sports Management and Marketing. I am currently working on my MPA from American University and plan to pursue this career path after graduating next year. LinkedIn

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