Many sports, including football and hockey, require certain protective gear such as shoulder and elbow pads for boys and adults. However, not all require boys to wear cups to protect their sensitive private areas. Even if his coach doesn't make the boys wear cups, you should make it a requirement for most sports your child plays to help him potentially avoid a serious injury.
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The Risk is There
Even though boys might not be required to wear protective cups in most sports, it doesn't mean there's no risk. Any fast-moving kick, ball or helmet that hits a boy in his privates can cause serious damage, including internal bleeding, testicular fracture or rupture. If left untreated too long, these issues can lead to the boy losing a testicle. Typically made of plastic, a cup is designed to hold the genitals close into the boy's body and absorb much of the force of direct blows.
Some sports, such as swimming and cross-country running, don't really need cup protection for boys. There's little or no risk of blunt force trauma to his private area. In sports that involve direct physical contact, however, use cups every time, just as you would shin guards or helmets. These sports include the obvious ones such as football and hockey, but also less obvious ones such as soccer, basketball and baseball.
Finding the Fit
The proper fit is key to making sure your son is well protected. It's best if you can get him to try his equipment on before purchasing it, but if it's too embarrassing in the store, buy a couple of sizes and return what you don't need. The cup should fit snugly inside a pouch, typically in a jock strap, and be held firmly against the boy's genital area. It should fit without restricting his leg movement but be large enough to cover the entire genital area completely.
When a Cup's Off the Table
More adult athletes are moving away from wearing cups, which means your son might insist upon it as well. Although a cup offers the best protection, a couple of options exist for a small amount of protection without the cup. Jock straps, if they fit snugly, can hold his genitals tightly against the body and reduce the chances of him being hit with more than a glancing blow. The same is true of compression shorts, meant to be worn under uniforms. Both options have choices designed to hold cups and those strictly meant for use without cups.