Why Do Soccer Players Wear Shin Guards?

Shin guards are part and parcel of the modern game that we call soccer.

People new to the sport may have a slight inkling into what role this piece of equipment has, but this article is going to take that a step further by fully detailing their purpose.

Therefore, let’s get straight down to business here.

Soccer players wear shin guards during matches to effectively reduce the risk of serious injuries, as well as for adhering to the rules of the game which stipulate their inclusion as part of an athlete’s attire.

Now, read on for more information.


Reasons why soccer players wear shin guards

There are two main reasons as to why soccer players would wear this piece of equipment, with the first being…


1. Competition rules

Professional competitions that soccer players take part in have a whole host of rules on the equipment that players must wear before participating.

why soccer players wear shin guards - competition rules

For instance, the English Football Association has a handbook online which outlines shin guards as being one piece of compulsory equipment that players have to put on.

They must be made of a suitable material so that they can provide reasonable protection for players, as well as be covered by the soccer socks that these athletes also wear.


2. Injury prevention

Secondly and more importantly, soccer players wear shin guards to protect themselves from harm as they compete on the field.

why soccer players wear shin guards - injury prevention

Although this game isn’t as physical as something like American football or rugby, it’s still classified as a contact sport.

This means that players will occasionally bump into each other, and all it takes is a mistimed sliding tackle to cause serious injury.

Additionally, there are some studies that have indicated that a staggering 62% of all players become injured at one point or another over the course of a league campaign, with 83% of those injuries occurring in the lower extremities of the body.

Obviously, this is the case because the sport involves the use of the legs to run on the field as well as kick the soccer ball.

Ultimately, wearing sufficient padding on the leg area can help to protect these athletes from both pain and devastating injury.

Another study posited that shin guards effectively reduce the risk of leg fractures, by protecting bones from at least 90 percent of the force load in many cases of serious contact.

If you’re after a pair that offers you the aforementioned protection, then have a look through our detailed product roundup of the top options.


What injuries do shin pads prevent?

Your typical slip in shin guards are great at reducing the risk of injuries such as:

  • Leg fractures; and
  • Shin bruises
why soccer players wear shin guards - preventing leg fractures

What’s more is that the shin guards that come with ankle support reinforce this area of the body, preventing damage to the ankles and heel area in some cases.

Usually, shin guards are made of rubber or plastic material, although there is research that suggests carbon fiber as a material acts as a stronger barrier for contact when compared against the more commercially available polypropylene type shin guards.

Ultimately, getting the right size is very important.


What happens if you don’t wear shin guards in soccer?

Well, the rules at professional level are pretty clear cut.

Here’s a quote which shows just how important shin guards are in today’s game:

“A player whose footwear or shin guard is lost accidentally must replace it as soon as possible and no later than when the ball next goes out of play.”

Source – FA Law 4 on Player Equipment

The referee or fourth official standing on the sidelines simply won’t allow you to get involved if you don’t have shin guards, as this would present a threat to overall player safety.


Do you have to wear shin guards in training?

Wearing shin guards during your practice sessions is not compulsory.

This can be seen at the professional level, as players from some of the biggest soccer teams in the world usually train without them.

Have a look at the video clip below, which showcases some footage from a recent Manchester United training session:

Notice how players like Christian Eriksen and Harry Maguire are wearing some crew length socks without shin guards as they play the piggy-in-the-middle game.

What this video shows is that you don’t necessarily have to put shin guards on for practice.


Why do soccer players like to wear small shin guards?

Some soccer players wear really small-sized shin guards for extra comfort.

The logic here is that your ball control can be adversely affected with bulky shin guards as they can get in the way of you trapping the ball effectively.

Makes sense if you ask me!

Another reason is that players don’t want to be slowed down by the larger sized shin guards that are slightly heavier in weight.

With the margins so fine at the professional level, any speed advantage a player can derive from lighter and smaller equipment can provide a massive advantage that has big implications on the field.


Closing thoughts

Now you know why soccer players wear shin guards during games.

It’s definitely not a fashion or stylistic choice, as there’s scientifically backed evidence supporting their use to reduce injury risk.

With that said, have a look at our detailed guide to wearing your shin pads properly, or our article that explains the process for cleaning them, as they’re both definitely worth the long read.

Samuel Waihenya
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