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Soccer: Shinguards and their importance

Updated on January 11, 2012
Adidas shin guards
Adidas shin guards

Shinguards (also known as shin pads) are essential football equipment, because they improve player protection and safety.

This protective equipment covers the shin of football players and is strapped on below the knee-high football stockings (socks).

So important are shinguards, that Law 4 (The Players’ Equipment) mandates their use as basic equipment. The term "shin pads" is also used to describe shin protection.

However, the official term is “shinguards” because it is a broader and more accurate term (not all guards are pads). Shin pads are actually a type of guard.

Although simulators like Ronaldo and Totti make football seem like a non-contact sport, in reality it is. Although unfair contact is outlawed, it does not prevent bad challenges from happening. Even some fair challenges and tackles may involve substantial contact on the legs.

Shins are a vulnerable area of our body and even little knocks over time can cause injury. This is because the shin bones do not have muscle or a lot of tissue covering them. In addition, the proximity of the shins to the feet makes it a real action area in football, since most challenges for the ball involve the legs and feet.

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adidas Pro Lite US Shin Guard, Black/Metallic Silver, Medium
adidas Pro Lite US Shin Guard, Black/Metallic Silver, Medium

Hard shell. Highly protective front plate. Slip-in construction.


Players should not even be allowed to take the field of play without shinguards. Some players believe that wearing shin protection is uncomfortable and prefer not to wear them. In amateur games, players may try to remove their protection once the match officials complete the inspection. That’s as prudent as only wearing a seatbelt if police are around. FIFA and the IFAB are serious about player safety, and this is one of the main reasons match officials implement Law 4 as diligently as they do.

Law 4 outlines further specifications for shin protection. According to FIFA law, they should be “made of a suitable material,” “covered entirely by stockings” and provide a reasonable degree of protection.”

Such guidelines do not only protect the player wearing the shinguard, but opponents and teammates as well. For instance, cardboard strips (a player favourite at amateur level) do not offer a reasonable degree of protection. However, a player wearing shinguards that are metal-plated can be a danger to other players on the field of play as well.

Some may argue that shin guards are not guaranteed to prevent injury, but this is not a reason to avoid wearing them, particularly in cases of serious foul play. Shinguards are like an insurance policy – how well they protect you depends on how good your coverage is.


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