Protective gear is integral to many sports. They allow athletes to play sports with a lowered risk of injury. While some people may find that using safety gear is annoying and uncomfortable, it is important for the prevention of injury. Some protective gear may also save lives.

The following list is not an exhaustive representation of the protective gear used in sports, but these are among some of the most common pieces of equipment used today.

Goggles and Glasses

A standard piece of protective gear in many sports, goggles are typically worn by hockey players, both water and ice skiers, snowboarders. In some cases, the intent of goggles and safety glasses is to protect the eyes from blunt trauma, such as a wayward hockey puck or collision with another player.

In other cases, such as with skiing, the purpose is to keep water and snow from being slung into the eyes. In other words, in these sports the purpose is to help maintain visibility.


A helmet is one of the most important pieces of protective gear for many sports. Helmets are easily associated with both football and cycling, but other sports use them too. Skiers, rock climbers, baseball players, hockey players, horse racing and drag racing and many others use helmets.

What kind of helmet is used depends on the sport. Different sports have different helmets which are tailored to the needs of the athlete. Helmets will have different designs depending on what they need to protect against. They will also be tailored according to the different aspects of each sport. For example, cycling helmets are aerodynamic to reduce air resistance.

Some helmets are outfitted with additional pieces of equipment. Some of these include ear guards, face masks or face guards, or a visor or goggles to protect the eyes.

Face Masks

Many sports use face masks to block or lessen blows to the head and face. While some face masks are part of a helmet, not all of them are. Boxers use padded face masks to reduce risk of injury when having practice fights.

Paintball players use airsoft masks to protect their faces from being shot. Paintball shots can inflict lots of pain on unprotected skin, making protective gear a must have item.

Fencers famously have mesh, see-through facemasks in order to prevent wayward sword thrusts from striking the face.

Chest Protectors

Chest protectors are commonly used in motorcross racing. Catchers in baseball and lacrosse players also wear them. They are designed to protect the chest area from forceful impacts. Some chest protectors may also extend protection to the back.

Some chest protective gear is designed to give protection to the shoulders specifically. Football pads are an example. They cover the upper chest area and shoulders, where football players are likely to collide with other players and the ground.

Most chest protectors are made out of sturdy foam materials, but chest protectors used in fencing are primarily made out of plastic.

Knee and Elbow Pads

This kind of gear straps onto the elbow and knee to protect them from scrapes, cuts, and worse injuries in the event of a fall. They are designed to help absorb the shock of the blunt impact. Many sports use knee and elbow guards. We commonly think of this kind of gear being worn by skaters, but other sports where this kind of gear is used include football, polo, volleyball, and cycling.

Shin Guards

A mainstay of soccer, shin guards protect the lower portion of the leg. Soccer players often have to use their shins to block or kick a speeding ball. Sometimes shin guards can be integrated into long socks called shin socks.

Mouth Guards

Mouth guards are used in contact sports like football, boxing, lacrosse, and hockey. They are plastic or rubber molds that fit into the mouth to protect teeth and gums from high impact collisions to the head.

While they are typically mandated to be used in contact sports, the American Dental Association recommends that they be used in any sport where there is risk of injury to the head, face, or teeth.


While gloves are not necessarily robust enough to protect hands from serious injury, they are nevertheless necessary in winter sports to protect from the cold. Padded gloves may very well protect against minor injuries and impacts.


We wouldn’t think of shoes as being part of an athlete’s protective gear, but many sports require special shoes in order to help prevent injury to the foot. Many shoes are designed to have good traction in order to reduce the risk of falls. Bowling shoes are probably the most famous of these, but volleyball, tennis, and racquetball players need high traction shoes for their sports as well.

Proper footwear is also necessary for runners to prevent blistering. Cycling shoes can do the same for cyclists.

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