Do soccer players wear protective cups? If not, should they wear them?

Do soccer players wear protective cups? If not, should they wear them?

Ciku Njuguna
September 20, 2023 at 4:34 AM

Why do soccer players wear cups? Also known as the L-guard, abdominal guard, or the box, the cup is a protective shell designed to protect the reproductive system of high-contact sports athletes. Dig in here to find out more about one of the most debated protective pieces of equipment.

What are athletic cups for?
Chelsea's defensive midfielder Trevoh Chalobah (pictured lying on the ground) receives treatment after receiving a kick to his groin by Naby Keita during the Carabao Cup Final match against Liverpool at Wembley Stadium on February 27, 2022, in London, England. A standard male groin guard (left). Photo by Robin Jones and Martial Arts Supplies.
Source: Getty Images

What sports do men wear cups for? The American Academy of Family Physicians estimates that up to five percent of all traumatic injuries in sports occur around the groin area. This article will bring to light the usage of protective gear in various high-contact sports.

What are athletic cups for?

The gear is a hard protective cup for footballers and is worn with a jockstrap or compression shorts to absorb impact to the lower abdominal area during high-impact play. The under-rated equipment prevents injuries to the groin area, such as testicular fracture, rupture, severe bruising, or internal bleeding.

The most gruesome groin injuries in athletes have led to testicular loss. According to USA Today, some of these athletes include baseball player Josias Manzanillo, rugby player Paul Wood, and NFL players Virgil Livers and Nick Fotiu.

Do you need an athletic cup for soccer?
Bayern Munich's striker Mario Mandzukic (#9) bends over to help his teammate, Toni Kroos (pictured lying on the ground), who was wounded during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final football match between FC Bayern Munich and Juventus Turin in Munich, southern Germany, on April 2, 2013. Photo by Christof Stache/AFP.
Source: Getty Images

In 2011, Blackburn Rovers defender Scott Dann suffered a testicular rupture after he collided with an opponent during a game against West Bromwich Albion. In the same year, Chelmsford City F.C. midfielder Chris Whelpdale split open his family jewels while playing for Gillingham Football Club. Most recently, St Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina underwent emergency surgery to rectify a pelvic injury with traumatic hematoma after taking a hit from a fouled 102-mph pitch.

What is the history of the athletic cup?

Although the actual dates are unknown, a Canadian company is credited with creating the cup following the 1874 invention of the jockstrap to add more protection to male reproductive organs. Over the years, impact-resistant gear has evolved from hard plastics and moulded metals to softer polymers and strong fibres such as Kevlar.

What sports players wear cups?

One of the earliest professional athletes who used the protective equipment in major league games was MLB catcher Claude Berry, who played for the Chicago White Sox, Pittsburgh Rebels, and the Philadelphia Athletics between 1905 and 1915. In 1926, sack race record-setter James Phillip Leo Taylor suffered a groin injury that inspired him to fashion a cup from aluminium. Over the course of his career between 1981 and 2001, MLB Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr., who holds one of the most unbreakable records in baseball with 2,632 consecutive games played, wore the equipment.

Do professional soccer players wear cups?

Do men's soccer players wear cups? The L-guard is typically not used by professional soccer players, with the exception of goalies. However, the equipment is regularly used among amateur athletes in youth leagues.

According to FA's laws of the game, mandatory protective equipment outlined by the authority, such as shin guards, headgear, facemasks, knee and arm protectors, and goalkeepers’ caps and sports spectacles, does not include the abdominal guard. As such, professional athletes, including World Cup soccer players, do not wear cups.

What do soccer players wear to protect their balls?
Portuguese defender Ricardo Carvalho was pictured lying on the ground after being stamped on the groin by English forward Wayne Rooney during the World Cup 2006 quarter-final football game on July 01, 2006, at Gelsenkirchen stadium. Photo by Adrian Dennis/AFP.
Source: Getty Images

Do professional baseball players wear cups?

Compared to other high-collision sports, baseball has the highest users of the guard. While nearly all the catchers are required to wear it, about 25 percent of all infielders use the protective gear. Following a military study on the benefits of the guard among combat soldiers, Southern Illinois University Urology professor Kevin McVary remarked that,

“Some protection makes a big difference. A blast injury must be umpteen times more forceful than a baseball, which I would say tells me that it is applicable.

What do football players wear to protect their groin?

In an interview with the New York Times, former NY Giants tight end Martellus Bennett expressed his views on the equipment. He said,

“In my life, at every level, I have never worn a cup. I do not know anyone who has. I think most guys like to hang out and be free.”
What is a protective cup in football?
Michael Turner (centre) of the Atlanta Falcons was walked to the locker room with trainers after injuring his groin during a game against the Arizona Cardinals at Georgia Dome on September 19, 2010, in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo by Kevin C. Cox.
Source: Getty Images

The statement that was recounted by almost all other pro-NFL athletes interviewed revealed that football players do not wear cups anymore. However, it is commonly used in the Pee Wee League and among high school and college male athletes.

What do cricket players wear to protect their groin?

In addition to helmets and chest, thigh, and leg guards, the abdominal guard is an essential piece of equipment in cricket's protective gear list. Professional and amateur athletes wear jockstraps to provide pelvic support, as well as an abdominal guard that is most commonly worn by batsmen and wicketkeepers.

How does a protective cup work?
Baltimore Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph (#36) was pictured kneeling after taking a pitcher to the groin during a game against the Boston Red Sox on May 30, 2016, at Oriole Park in Baltimore, Maryland. Photo by Patrick Smith.
Source: Getty Images

Do female athletes wear cups?

Like their male counterparts, the choice to use the protective gear depends entirely on preference. However, the female groin protector is recommended for female athletes in high-impact sports. Among female cricketers, mandatory protective equipment includes chest and abdominal guards, commonly referred to as the box.

Do male rugby players wear cups?

The World Rugby Association prohibits equipment on the field manufactured from rigid materials as they increase the risk of injury to the wearer, teammates or opponents. Some footy athletes wear softer padded caps made from cloth or foam, called scrum caps. Additionally, players wear rugby protective shorts, which are specially padded shorts designed to absorb impact during a tackle or a hit.

Why do soccer players wear cups? Wearing safety equipment during high-impact sports allows players to maintain their performance and longevity as professional athletes. However, the athletic cup is not popular among athletes, with a number citing discomfort and its restrictive nature.

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