Sports Protective Equipment : Sports Injury Prevention

As a result of injuries to athletes during sporting activities, safety standards are set by government, national health and public health organisations to identify risks and protective equipment required in specific sports, particularly action or high contact sports, to reduce risk of injury. Athletes that compete professionally or as part of employment are protected under occupational safety and health standards. When engaging in a sport, it is best to seek professional sports advice about the type of protective equipment required.

Protective equipment may include helmets, protective eyewear, mouth guards, face protection, jock straps, life jackets, safety mats, pads and guards, protective footwear and padded flame resistant pressure suits for motorcyclists and motor cross participants.


To prevent or minimise head or brain injuries to sports people, such as boxers, cricketers, football players, cyclists, skiers, baseball and motor sports, helmets are mandatory or recommended. These helmets are specially designed and tested according to the impacts of different types of sports, so a baseball helmet cannot be worn by a cyclist or boxer. The helmet should fit the player's head properly to also prevent damage from wear.

Protective Eyewear

Protective sports eyewear may include specially designed sunglasses for skiers or snowboarders, such as 3-mm polycarbonate lenses with ultraviolet filter to protect the eyes from impacts and radiation. Sports goggles are also recommended for use by tennis players and other racquet sports, like hockey and lacrosse. Cricket wicket keepers often wear helmets to protect their eyes from injury as a result of being hit by the cricket ball. Even serious fly fishermen should protect their eyes against fish-hooks that can penetrate their eyes.

Face Protection and Mouth Guards

Fractured facial bones are common amongst cricketers, boxers and hockey players where the player is either hit by an accelerating ball, by a racquet, or stress fractures from repetitive blunt force in boxing. Batting helmets and face guards are used to protect against such injury. The mouth, lips, teeth, gums, jaws, tongue and cheek are vulnerable to blows that can cause tears, fractures, and even concussion depending on the impact. Mouth protection is a requirement for sports, like boxing, hockey, rugby, and squash, where collision and trauma may be high. These guards should fit the mouth appropriately, be durable and adequately cleaned between wear for activities.

Pads, Guards and Straps

In any contact sport, like hockey or rugby, pads and guards should be worn to reduce injury to the neck, shoulders, chest, elbows, arms, wrists, hip, thighs, knees, shins and ankles. Guards range from hard plastic to soft padding, depending on the type of sport and expected injuries. Shin guards are worn by cricketers to protect the shins from rapid contact by the hard cricket ball. Knee pads protect damage to cartilage and the knee joint, while shoulder pads can help to support the shoulder joint to reduce risk of sprains and fractures. Thigh pads are worn in cricket to prevent ruptures or severe bruising to the thigh muscles. Elbow pads are often worn in racquet sports too, such as tennis, but particularly in hockey and inline skating.

Protective Clothing and Footwear

Padded or reinforced clothes are uniquely designed for certain sports, as are the sports shoes. In field sports, such as soccer or football, sports cleats with plastic spikes are worn for traction and to reduce the risk of injuries from falls. Running shoes are worn by athletes and are designed for optimised pronation and minimise overuse of the feet and ankle joint. Cyclists wear cycling shoes that protect the feet from pain and allow for safe, fast pedaling.

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