Safety & Style In Football OR Shin Pad Shinanigans: A Leg-endary Guide
Football, the world’s most popular team sport, has evolved significantly over the years. Both the gameplay, preparation, organisation, and equipment have become more sophisticated and advanced. The humble shin pad is a prime example of applying science and technology to an essential (and sometimes neglected!) piece of protective gear. Since football started, people have been getting kicked on the shins. Large bruises don’t look good and make you play better – Safety & Style in Football are important!
The shin is properly referred to as the tibia. This is the bigger of the 2 bones making up the lower leg. Getting kicked on the shins is painful. The worst-case scenario of a blow to the shin is a fracture *(broken bone). Your shin has skin, periosteum (a thin layer of tissue covering the tibia bone), and bone. The periosteum is richly supplied with pain sensors. As there’s little other tissue to take the impact of a direct blow…it REALLY hurts when you get a direct impact here. Bruising of the skin AND bone can occur as the tissues bleed internally. Sometimes cuts (lacerations) can occur tearing the skin and resulting in the need for medical attention. Direct blows to the shin can cause it to break. Hence, footballers quickly realised it helped them to wear something to protect their shins.
The First Ever Football Shin Pads
The history of football shin pads appears to date back to the late 19th century. A likely contender is Sam Weller Widdowson. Playing professional football for Notts County and Nottingham Forest and first-class cricket, the Nottinghamshire player is said to have cut down a pair of cricket pads to protect him from injury. Players gradually refined from this beginning with makeshift solutions such as leather straps or padded materials, to protect their shins from the aggressive tackles and intense gameplay. These early shin pads were rudimentary and offered moderate protection and were awkward to wear but they were a start. Not much Safety & Style In Football here!
In the early 1900s, a breakthrough occurred with the introduction of padding made from natural materials like cotton and foam. These pads were more comfortable and provided better shock absorption, significantly improving protection for players.
Over the next few decades, shin pads continued to evolve, with manufacturers incorporating new materials and designs to improve protection, comfort, and mobility. In the mid-20th century, the introduction of fiberglass and plastic revolutionized the shin pad industry. These materials were lightweight yet durable, offering superior protection compared to earlier iterations.
In the 1970s, foam and gel cushioning became a hallmark of modern shin pads. These materials are moulded to the shape of the shin, providing a snug fit and enhanced protection against collisions and impacts during the game. Foam and gel cushioning significantly reduced the risk of injuries and increased player confidence on the field.