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In addition to the ball they play with, soccer players need a few more items to keep the things on the field running smoothly. Proper soccer cleats are an essential element of every soccer player’s outfit that is used for the performance gain they offer, but they can also be a fashion statement. The situation is the same with socks. Shin guards, on the other hand, are an essential element of every soccer player’s outfit, yet no one sees them. Why do soccer players wear shin guards?
Soccer players wear shin guards in order to prevent injury. Soccer is a sport that involves a certain degree of contact, and players’ shins are one of the body parts that are most likely to come in contact with an opponent. For this reason, shin guards have been introduced to the game.
Even though there are thousands of players who dislike wearing them, shin guards aren’t going anywhere. That’s why we’re about to answer some of the most common questions and misconceptions about this essential element of the game. Read on to find out everything you’ve ever wanted to know about shin guards:
What is the purpose of shin guards?
Shin guards serve the purpose of protecting the shins from impact during practice and matches. Soccer players are constantly at risk of injury, as evident by the fact that 62.7% of them are injured during a season and that 82.9% of all injuries are located in the lower extremities.
An even bigger number of common soccer injuries, such as fractures and sprains to the lower extremities, is prevented by enforcing the mandatory use of shin guards. In severe impacts due to tackles, kicks, and other types of contact, shin guards at least serve the purpose of reducing the severity of the potential injury.
Bruising and swelling are two more things that are likely to be prevented by wearing shin guards, especially among amateur players who rarely use this piece of protective equipment. Investing in a decent pair of shin guards is a good idea for any soccer player, regardless of their age, skill level, and field type preference.
Do professional soccer players have to wear shin guards?
As amateur soccer players, we are allowed to choose whether we want to wear shin guards and stay protected or assume the higher risk of injury and opt for comfort that not wearing them brings. This is a luxury that professional soccer players don’t have:
According to the FA and FIFA laws, professional soccer players have to wear shin guards. The official rules of soccer state that players must have the following mandatory equipment:
- A shirt with sleeves
- Shin guards
The rules also state that in case a player accidentally loses a shin guard during the game, it must be replaced as soon as possible and no later than when the ball is out of play for the first time after the loss of the item.
In professional matches, shin guard regulations also require this piece of players’ equipment to fulfill some basic requirements. Shin guards need to be made of suitable materials that can’t harm players on either side of a tackle, and they also need to provide reasonable protection.
While in practice sessions, soccer players are not required to wear shin guards unless their team’s rulebook states otherwise.
Why are shin pads so small?
Not all shin pads are small. Just over a decade ago, all soccer players used shin guards that were big and clunky, yet they brilliantly served the purpose of protecting the players’ legs from impact. During the last 10 years or so, the game has become so competitive that players started to look for ways to remove the obstacle that these big pieces of plastic taped to their shins were representing and gain more on performance and agility.
It is a fact that most soccer players despise wearing shin pads. Most of them find that they interfere with movement, touch, and all other major aspects of the game, while also not offering much in terms of actual shin protection. However, due to the previously mentioned laws, they are obligated to wear this piece of protective gear: Shin pads are so small nowadays because soccer players dislike wearing them, yet they need to wear them due to FIFA and FA laws.
Luckily, soccer gear manufacturers have adapted to the new demands that the players have set. Shin guards are now not only small and almost unnoticeable, but they also offer excellent performance in terms of their actual purpose – shin protection.
Do soccer shin guards go over socks?
Both socks and shin guards are a mandatory part of all official soccer leagues. Beginner soccer players commonly have one questions – which one goes on first?
Once again, amateur soccer players have an advantage: Those who decide to wear shin guards can wear them however they like. The majority will follow reason and cover the shin guards with socks, keeping them in place under the socks. Wearing shin guards under the socks serves two purposes. Firstly, it reduces the risk of injury for other players, as they can easily hurt themselves on the exposed shin guards. Secondly, wearing shin guards under the socks is much more comfortable. Finally, having shin guards under the socks ensures that they stay in place and do their job of protecting the wearer properly.
Professional soccer players need to have shin guards that are covered by the socks, as the FA rules we’ve previously mentioned state clearly. FIFA rules also state that the entire shin guard needs to be covered by the sock at all times during play.
The type of shin guards soccer players choose to wear can be either the ones with ankle guards or the ones without them. Typically, shin guards that also guard ankles are used by youth players, while adult soccer players prefer standard shin guards. Both types of shin guards are worn under the socks.
When did soccer players start wearing shin guards?
All professional soccer players started wearing shin guards in 1990 when FIFA made them a mandatory piece of equipment.
Shin guards have been around for thousands of years. Greek and Roman soldiers wore them to keep their lower extremities protected during battle. Deriving from these war-intended purposes, shin guards as we know them today have been first introduced in cricket. This game has been using shin guards ever since 1809.
The first soccer player to wear shin guards was Sam Weller Widdowson, a cricket player who also played soccer for Nottingham Forest. If we take his first appearance into consideration, soccer players started wearing shin guards in 1874.
What are the best shin guards for soccer?
Choosing the right set of shin guards can be even trickier than picking the right soccer cleats or any other piece of equipment. They need to stay light and not interfere with the player’s ability to perform, while also offering a certain degree of protection that the rules require. For this reason, we’ve tested some of the most popular shin guards on the market, and chose the two best options available:
1. Nike Mercurial Lite Shin Guards – The best light shin guards on the market
Available on Amazon, Nike Mercurial Lite shin guards are the choice of numerous professional players. During testing, these shin guards showed to be the ones with the best compromise between agility and safety; they are light enough to barely interfere with play, while their cushioning and impact diffusion is more than enough to keep the player safe and uninjured. The Mercurial Lite is available in all sizes, but make sure to order a size or two up, as the model can be tight for most users.
2. Adidas X Pro Soccer Shin Guards – The most comfortable shin guards on the market
Also available on Amazon, Adidas X Pro soccer shin guards share the first spot for the title of the best shin guard on the market. This popular model comes with EVA backing for comfort, decent cushioning for impact diffusion, and it also has a compression sleeve that holds it in place. Even though it offers more comfort and protection than the Nike model, the X Pro is a bit more clunky, which leads to a small negative impact on the wearer’s speed and agility.
Whichever of the two recommended products you choose, or even if you go for one that isn’t listed, you won’t be wrong. Wearing any shin guards is better than wearing none, especially if you want to enjoy playing soccer for a long time.