Why Do Soccer Players Wear Shin Guards? Are They Necessary?

why do soccer players wear shin guards

In soccer most injuries are the ones that hit the shin, that’s why protecting this part of your body while playing (even while training) is really important …

… In this article, I breakdown the reason why soccer pros always wear shin guards and why you should use the highest quality possible ones!

Let’s dive in.

Why do soccer players wear shin guards?

A shin guard (typically shin pad in British English) is a piece of equipment worn on front of a soccer player’s shin. Inspired by the concept of a greave a piece of equipment used to protect the shin, their primary purpose is to protect the wearer from injury.

Although still only a voluntary accessory in the amateur game they have been mandatory in professional soccer for the past 30+ years.

Wearing shin guards also gives players the confidence to play what is a contact sport knowing that they can do so safely.

It should be noted that shin guards vary depending on the position on the field somebody plays!

For example, because goalkeepers normally do not have direct contact with another player’s legs or feet, they only require a light shin guard which offers them minimal protection.

By contrast, the defenders in front of them will need much more and will often wear a heavier guard that helps protect the ankle as well. Midfielders will wear a guard that offers some protection but not one that inhibits their ability to move around the field.

It is worth mentioning that Soccer is actually a contact sport and these kinds of protection gear, even mouthguard are useful for soccer protection!

Is it mandatory for professional soccer?

Although shin guards have been part of football, they have only been mandatory since 1990-when FIFA defined them as essential equipment for soccer players in professional matches.

Their Equipment Regulations book now prescribes their use along with a jersey or shirt with sleeves, a pair of shorts, socks (stockings) and footwear.

The laws also state that shin guards should be made of rubber, plastic or a suitable synthetic material, and it is left to the discretion of a match referee to decide if the equipment worn poses a danger either to the player wearing it or others on the field.

All the equipment that professional players wear before a match must be inspected by the referee and his assistants, including the shin guards.

The shin guard must be worn under their socks and must be completely covered. If their socks should slip down during a match, then the referee will ask the player to pull them up again.

If they refuse or the shin guards have become defective in anyway, they will be ordered to leave the field and only return once they have been fixed and checked by the referee’s assistant.

Shin guard recommendations

There are several factors to consider when choosing the right shin guard. They should offer the maximum of protection whilst at the same time being lightweight and comfortable.

Vizari Malaga Shin Guards (Check them Here on Amazon) have become my favorite because they have all those qualities, protecting both the shin and the ankle as well.

They are made of polypropylene which means that they provide both a high degree of protection, whilst being lightweight at the same time.

Foam padded backing ensures comfort, and a Velcro strap locks the guard in place at the top of the shin, ensuring that they do not slip during play.

The hard- plastic shell means that the shin guards should last a long time, yet they are also a low-cost option. They have the added advantage that they are suitable for players of both sexes, young as well as old.

What material are shin guard made from?

Shin guards can be made from a variety of synthetic materials, all of which have both pros and cons.

  • Fibreglass – light weight and sturdy, but they can be rather stiff.
  • Foam rubber – vey light, but not as solid and sturdy as fiberglass and do not add the same degree of protection.
  • Polyurethane – arguably the best because they offer almost complete protection from most impacts although they are rather heavy.
  • Plastic – light and offers less protection than all the other types; and
  • Metal – offers a high degree of protection but they are heavy and uncomfortable to wear.

Shin guard types

There are essentially three types of shin guard which are suitable for different needs.

1. Slip-in Shin Guards

These are designed to slip inside a sock. They are the type of guard used by professional players because they offer protection but are lightweight and do not restrict their ability to move freely. They tend to be more expensive than other models.

2. Ankle Shin Guards

Aimed at those who are still learning the game, these guards protect not only the shin but extend from the knee to the ankle area as well.

They are highly durable and offer a lot of protection, but their drawback is that they can restrict movement, which is why professional soccer players tend to shy away from them. However, they are cheaper and more affordable than the slip-in versions.

3. Sock Style Guards

These offer the least protection of all the types of guard and are intended for the occasional soccer player only. They are just socks with a pad inserted where the shin bone is located and are not suitable for playing in a match where the opponents are wearing cleats, because they offer little protection against injury. They are generally cheap though.

Do they protect your shin even if they are so small?

Shin guards are designed to protect the shins from physical impact by distributing the force of an impact from another player across the shins even if they are small.

Regardless of their size, as far as they are durable, fit well and held in place, they will fulfill their purpose.

Also, it is important to note that you need to have long socks to have your shin guards stick well. You can learn more about the benefits of long soccer socks

When has this practice started?

Shin guards owe their origin to the concept of the greave, a technology that dates back to ancient Greece and Rome. They were made of bronze or other metals and worn by warriors when they went into battle.

By the Middle Ages they had evolved and could be made of a variety of materials including cloth, leather, or iron. They typically covered the whole of the lower leg, front and back.

By the late 18th century, however, their main purpose shifted away from battle to sport, where they were first used in cricket. However, originally, they used to give a strategic advantage to batsmen rather than for protection. A batsman who wore shin guards was able to cover the wicket with his protected legs to prevent the ball hitting the stumps.

That in turn led to the introduction of the leg before wicket rule. However, shin guards and leg pads continued to be wore as a way of protecting the wearer from injury if hit by the ball.

The man credited with introducing them to soccer in 1874 was Sam Weller Widdowson who played football for Nottingham Forest and cricket for Nottinghamshire. Looking for a way to protect himself against the frequent kicking that he received, Widdowson hit upon the idea of taking a pair of his cricket pads, cutting them down to size, and strapping them on the outside of his shins.

Although other players initially mocked him, they soon saw the practical benefits and began to follow suit.

However, although they had been a part of soccer for years, they gradually fell out of fashion with players as soccer became less rough and more refined following various rules changes. That, in turn, led to a sharp increase in major leg injuries, forcing FIFA to make them mandatory in professional soccer in 1990.

Is this the case in other sports?

Shin guards in a sporting sense began with cricket, but today have become a common piece of equipment for full contact sports.

In baseball, one of the early exponents of them was Roger Bresnahan a catcher in the early years of the 20th century. Bresnahan was playing for the New York Giants in 1907 when he borrowed the practice of several players from the minor leagues and began using them in spring training. He then wore them in the first game of the regular season in April of that year, but the idea was not an immediate success.

Not used to catchers wearing any protective gear, the fans jeered him and threw snowballs at him, causing the game to be abandoned. The Phillies were subsequently awarded the match. The press also criticized him, but the league refused to ban them and other players, noting Bresnahan’s success whilst wearing them, began to copy him.

At roughly the same time in the US, ice hockey became a professional sport with the formation of the International Professional Hockey League. A full contact sport where the incidence of injury was – and remains – high; shin guards were an essential piece of equipment from the start of every game.

A much more modern sport is mountain bike trialing, in which riders attempt to navigate a course full of obstacles – natural or manmade – without setting foot on the ground. Different variants include street racing and trials involving the use of vehicles, Lorries and even earth-moving equipment. Accidents are frequent with competitors often coming off their bikes. Shin guards help protect from some of the cuts and grazes that are an occupational hazard of the sport.

Final Thoughts …

Hope this article has successfully answered your burning questions about shin guards for soccer!

Again, if you are a player, even at an amateur level, please consider using shin guards with a decent quality, to avoid any unnecessary injuries, even while practicing! The ones I’ve recommended above are really good, so have a look at them.

Finally, I don’t know about you, but I am a big soccer fan … I’ve shared these reasosns why I think soccer is the best sport. I think you will find those reasons appealing.

Claressa Cormier

Claressa Cormier has over 15 years of soccer experience between playing the sport at a semi-professional level, following the biggest soccer teams & leagues out there as well as helping beginners to get started on the right foot.

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