Keeping the ball out of the back of the net can take a huge toll on a goalkeeper.
The acrobatic nature of diving to the ball to execute a save is pleasing to the eye but, without sufficient body cushioning, the development of an injury is a distinct possibility.
This is why numerous goalkeepers wear long-sleeved jerseys that come equipped with additional arm, shoulder and rib padding, as this structural reinforcement safeguards them from the potential bruises and abrasions that can arise from falling to ground whilst attempting to make saves.
Let’s look at this in a little more detail.
Why goalkeepers wear additional protection
Back in the distant past, football was largely played on grass pitches where you could pluck out the roots and see the soil underneath with your own eyes.
The advent of artificial turf certainly changed the playing landscape, as more and more clubs chose to take training sessions and competitive games on third generation (3G) or fourth generation (4G) synthetic grounds.
But these more durable, smooth-rolling surfaces which cost a lot less to maintain than their natural grass counterpart are a bit harder on the body when it comes to on-pitch casualties.
The video below explains why goalkeepers resort to wearing protective equipment:
A medical department called the University Hospitals Sports Medicine Institute studied the rates of injury on artificial turf and grass surfaces among male and female high school athletes, and concluded that participants were 58% more likely to hurt themselves during sporting activity on an artificial surface.
So, this change has brought about the need for goalkeepers to sport additional gear for their own safety, and here’s a couple of reasons why:
Preventing grass and turf burns
This sort of injury can occur when an athlete slides or skids across artificial turf. The resulting friction causes abrasions that can tear into the top layer of one’s skin.
But that’s not the only concern.
When your skin gets ripped off of the synthetic surface, the wound is left open to being infected by potentially harmful chemicals that are present in the crumb rubber pellets on the ground, which are made out of recycled automotive tyres.
In fact, a National Toxicology Program on crumb rubber revealed that young goalkeepers are being diagnosed with blood cancers due to the chemical exposure which arises from playing on these synthetic fields.
Even more so, artificial turf is treated with biocides to maintain it and extend its longevity.
But what many people are largely unaware of is that these biocides can cause a very dangerous infection called Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
MRSA is said to happen when skin is cut or scraped, and the result may be fatal due to the possibility of it leading to other health complications such as pneumonia and sepsis.
The aforementioned is why wearing padded goalie pants is so critical these days.
Not only do they prevent your skin from being exposed to the chemicals within the turf, as they also cushion and support your hips, thighs and knees as you dive to the ground.
Stopping bone bruising and fractures
In addition to injuries caused by skidding and scraping on the turf, football is home to some of the most forceful collisions you will ever see in a competitive sport!
Goalkeepers are put in the firing line particularly when it comes to opposition set pieces, as they have to make their way through a number of bodies in the area to catch the ball from a corner or wide free kick.
The chances of a stray leg coming into contact with a goalie’s arm or a flailing elbow landing on their wrist is a big reason why goalkeepers wear long sleeves, as these particular scenarios are not out of the question during the 90 minutes.
With sufficiently padded clothing, the shock impact from these collisions can be absorbed and therefore place less of a strain on the body and reduce the overall chance of extreme fractures and bone breakages.
Do goalkeepers wear knee pads?
Yes, they do!
According to the International Football Association Board Laws of the Game – particularly Law 4.4 on page 58 – non-dangerous protective equipment such as knee and arm protectors that are comprised of soft, lightweight padded material are permitted to be worn.
Although these accessories definitely fall into the optional category when it comes to deciding whether or not they should be worn.
If an athlete tends to wear pants as opposed to shorts, then knee pads would be considered overkill here.
Despite that, a lightweight and unobtrusive pair would be a good addition especially for goalkeepers that have knee sensitivity problems and require additional joint support in this area.
This article has answered the question of whether goalkeepers wear padding and has highlighted a few reasons why the extra protection can be so important.
But I’ll just offer a quick recap.
Goalies wear padded jerseys along with either a pair of padded pants or shorts for extra cushioning when diving onto the ground and shock absorbing direct player impacts that happen during games.
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