Protective mens' sports equipment generally includes a jockstrap and cup. Male athletes have a unique concern -- the scrotum and penis -- unprotected soft tissue. The jockstrap and cup each protect the genitals in a particular manner. Using these items of protective equipment is important, since 20 percent of emergency department visits for genital injuries involve serious permanent injury, according to the Children's Hospital Medical Center of Akron.
Jockstraps, also known as athletic supporters, are designed to help secure the genitalia and keep it close to the body. This is done through the use of a restrictive pouch attached to three elastic bands. One band goes around your waist, holding the strap to your body. The other two straps hook from the hip on both the left and right sides of your body and travel down your backside to attach to the base of the pouch between your legs. There is no fabric to cover your backside; the only fabric on the actual pouch is around the genitals.
Jockstraps are built for support, meaning that the fabric pouch and supporting bands of elastic material hold the penis and testicles close to your body, keeping them in place. This support helps prevent the genitals from getting injured through the bouncing or other movements performed during a sport. While most supportive undergarments can provide this same protection, such as a pair of briefs or boxer briefs, jockstraps have the added benefit of a built-in pouch to support an athletic cup.
Athletic Cup Structure
Athletic cups are made from a hard material, such as hardened plastic or even stainless steel alloy. The cup is shaped in a unique anatomical design, which is made to be comfortable around the penis and testicles. Typically, the cup also has holes across the surface of the material to allow air circulation to the genitals as the body heats up during game play. Newer models of cups also have a gel perimeter that cushions the area of the supporter with the most contact with the body.
Athletic Cup Benefits
While the support of a jockstrap can be provided by other garments, an athletic cup's protection cannot be duplicated. Athletic cups protect the genitals from any impacts that can occur during a sporting event, whether from a fall, a misplaced kick, or a piece of sporting equipment making contact between the legs. The hard outer shell of the cup is designed to absorb the shock of the hit, keeping the genitals safely tucked away within the jock strap. That does not mean a hit to the genitals will not be painful, but just that the hit will cause less damage to the genitalia.