Do Pro Football Players Wear Cups?

Do Pro Football Players Wear Cups?

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Kids grow up playing outdoor team sports like football, and their coaches will constantly ask a player, “You’re wearing a cup, right?” Early on, young players will see pro players on television or if they’re close enough at a stadium, and wonder whether a player is wearing his cup.

In professional football, wearing a protective cup is entirely optional, up to the player to decide.

In fact, at almost all levels of play, a cup is not considered an essential piece of football gear. It is among optional items like extra pads over the ribs.

In baseball it’s pretty much the same, with a single major distinction: the position of catcher. There, with the groin area exposed to hard baseballs coming straight away at a high velocity, cups are required up until about age 12. The age cutoff depends on the league.

However, even after that age, all catchers in real baseball wear a cup no matter what.

Why Wear Protective Cups in Football

The male’s private parts around the groin are, of course, essential for procreation. This is not an area where young males want to be injured or damaged.

Plus, the testicles down there are very, very sensitive; it hurts like heck when the balls are struck hard.

In baseball, the game is played with a small hard ball that can take weird bounces and hit a player anywhere in the body. Wearing a cup in baseball makes a lot of sense for catchers, and also infielders and sometimes even pitchers.

But how often does a football hit you in the groin? Maybe on a rare occasion for wide receivers, running backs, or tight ends who really mishandle a ball thrown to them.

Ah, but think beyond the ball. The game of football involves players colliding and trying to tackle each other to the ground, which means fast-swinging fists, sharp elbows, and even helmets being driven into the tenderloin area.

While piles of players tumble to the ground, a stray cleat here, fast elbow there, and BAM groin pain.

Still, most players in the National Football League do not wear protective cups. The reason is, at the very highest level of play football is all about speed ~ and believe it or not, players feel that the cup can slow them down, or otherwise somehow impede free body part movement.

It’s more about feeling: that cups feel restrictive and hinder free movement especially when twisting for moves and cuts.

More NFL players than you might imagine complain about discomfort when bending over and folding the body to get into the 3-point stance used by most players on the line on either side of the line of scrimmage.

In a true game of inches, where every yard and every point counts, most players try to gain an edge any way they can. And often that means skipping the cup.

Other Reasons Pro Football Players Skip Cups

In most cases the reason football players skip using protective cups is interference when making football moves. There are other contributing factors, however, such as:


Hardly any National Football League players wear a cup. Many have said they prefer to avoid the ribbing they feel will come from other players should they strap on the cup. They don’t want to be ridiculed.


While modern cups are designed much, much better than the plain hard plastic edged by rubber of years past, they still can pinch or pull down there. And a lot of athletes won’t deal with it.


Some cups bulge noticeably, and players who value style in their overall look could live without the blemish. Not all cups fit all men the same; some have bodies shaped in a manner that make cups fit particularly strange.


National Football League games are long and tedious and force players who spend a lot of time on the field to exert tremendous energy with little recovery time between plays. There are players who skip as many pads or equipment pieces all in the name of lessening weight, which long-term might keep them fresh deeper into games.


Some players repeat the same motion a hundred times or more over the course of a game. Getting into the 3-point stance comes to mind. These players have a cup’s edges rub against the skin longer and more often than other players, and rashes could be the result.


In any sport there will be players who just can’t keep the cup in place, even with very tight underwear or a jock strap. Constantly having to adjust and re-adjust the cup is annoying.


This involves the penis, and there are some players who just won’t deal with the contraction of the penis due to hot moisture being contained in that area due to the protective cup.

Risks of Not Wearing a Protective Cup in Football

Any male over the age of 12 has probably experienced a strike or blow the balls, called testicles in medical terms. Here are some of the immediate responses:

  • Immediate severe pain
  • Wind knocked out of you
  • Lingering dull pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty walking

Testicles, of course, the part of the male body needed for reproduction. As the body’s reproductive organ, they create sperm, as well as testosterone, the male sex hormone.

The testicles let men contribute their half of the equation to make a baby. Testosterone is what gives males characteristics associated with men, and differentiate them from women.

The big risk with testicles and any physical or violent action is, the organs are basically outside the body proper, unprotected by hard bones or even muscle mass. They hang in a soft-tissue sac, known as the scrotum, basically just a single layer of skin.

So when the balls get struck hard, nothing deflects or absorbs the energy. The testicles take the entire brunt of the blow.

Severe testicle shots can land a player in the hospital. In severe cases, a testicle may crack, or have to be removed.

What to Look For When Buying a Protective Cup in Sports

Here are some fine details to look for when trying to buy a protective cup.

  • Sizing. Too small or even too big won’t be tolerated long.
  • Edges. Cups are hard plastic or metal, and they have edges that must be covered protect the skin. Look closely at whether there is a covering (there will be), then what material it is, how thick it is, and whether maybe it includes padding underneath.
  • Main material. What’s the main cup made of? There are even titanium cups available out there. It’s like having a piece of the space shuttle protect the balls.
  • Weight. Most cups will list the weight on the box or in marketing materials.
  • Shape. Some cups are long and thin, others wider especially at the top. Some also lie flat, while others can have a thin underside that bends deeply around the scrotum.
  • Ventilation. It gets hot and moist down there during play. Notice that some cups are filled with holes like Wiffle balls. Those would let air flow more  freely to keep that sensitive area cooler.

Top Protective Cup Makers

  • Shock Doctor
  • McDavid
  • Koopow
  • Exxact Sports
  • Comfy Cup
  • Champion

Related Questions

Question: Is a metal or plastic protective cup better?

Answer: It depends on your goal when wearing one. If it’s the most protection possible then the metal version is better. If it’s mainly peace of mind when playing, without getting in the way, then go plastic. Metal cups are more for players in high-intensity positions of other sports, like goalies in hockey, or catchers in baseball.

Q.: Why are there 2 testicles?

A.: In case one is lost or stops working, of course! In seriousness, reproduction is so important to animal races that over time, most developed 2 just for that reason. Of course, we’re unsure why no species has more, like 3 or 4. Perhaps evolution decided 2 was enough?

Q.: Why does it hurt so bad to be hit in the balls?

A.: Probably the body’s way of informing men how important it is to protect that organ.

Q; Does it hurt to be struck there even if wearing a cup?

A: It can, and often does. The organ can still take a significant blow. Think about wearing a helmet and getting hit hard by a pitch there. It still stings or dazes some. Sometimes it can hurt pretty good.

Q.: Do you always have to wear a jock strap with a cup?

A.: No.

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