Essential Safety Equipment for Sports

Prevent sports injuries with basic sports safety equipment

Portrait of Cyclist Woman on Road Bike with Sunglasses and Helmet

Getty Images / Oleg Breslavtsev

Sports safety equipment and gear may sometimes look odd or unfashionable, but using the right protective safety gear for your sport is essential for preventing serious injuries or reducing the severity of an injury you may receive. After all, the point of a sport is to enjoy participating, and getting injured can keep you off the playing field for weeks or more. 

Here are some of the most critical pieces of safety gear for athletes of all sports.

Protective Eyewear

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, more than 90% of all sports-related eye injuries can be prevented by using appropriate protective eyewear. This advice applies to athletes or anyone who participates in sports.

There are a variety of clear and tinted sunglasses and goggles for nearly every sport, so shop around for the ones that fit your style and your face and keep your eyes protected.

Helmets

If you play football or hockey, wearing a helmet is clearly a "no-brainer," but many athletes who participate in sports with a high risk of head injury still see the helmet as optional. However, with the growing awareness of the dangers concussions can cause later in life, the necessity of proper head protection has become apparent.

If you cycle, ski, snowboard, skateboard, or inline skate, you need to consider a helmet as standard equipment. A properly fitted helmet, designed for the specific sport you play, significantly decreases your risk of suffering a severe head injury and even death.

Mouth Guards

If you've ever been smacked in the jaw by a stray ball or flying elbow while playing sports, you probably know how essential a mouth guard is to keep your teeth where they should be—in your mouth. But mouthguards also help prevent tongue and lip injuries and help reduce the risk of suffering a concussion or fractured jaw.

Mouthguards should be considered mandatory safety equipment during sports that risks injury to the face, jaw, or mouth. The most effective mouth guards fit well and are comfortable, but they also stay in place, are durable, easy to clean, and don't restrict speaking and breathing.

Safety Pads and Guards

Safety pads and guards are standard sports safety equipment in dozens of activities. If you play certain contact sports, such as football, hockey, or lacrosse, protective pads are required, but you should wear pads for any contact sport. The type and style of pads seem endless and include shin, knee, elbow, wrist, chest, neck, shoulder, hip, and thigh pads.

Some sports, such as inline skating and skateboarding, include the wrist, knee, and elbow guards as standard equipment. These rigid plastic guards prevent cuts, scrapes, and abrasions and reduce the odds of a significant sprain, strain, or even a fracture after a hard fall.

Knee pads and wrist guards can be a great advantage even in snowboarding. A wipeout on a snowboard usually involves you naturally reaching out with your arms to break your fall, and in the process, it's very easy to break a wrist.

Proper Footwear and Athletic Shoes

The type of shoe you wear during certain sports can easily be added to the safety equipment list.

Sports cleats are essential during field sports, such as football, baseball, and soccer. The right running shoes can decrease your risk of overuse injuries. Special cycling shoes can reduce foot pain and increase your pedaling efficiency. Court shoes with support and good traction are designed for basketball, tennis, and racquetball.

A Word From Verywell

Sports safety equipment is vital for protecting athletes from injuries ranging from mild to severe. Many parts of the body are susceptible to sprains, strains, breaks, and damage that can interfere with your activity or result in permanent issues.

When preparing to participate in any sport, determine what safety equipment may be needed to protect the athlete as much as possible. Be sure the equipment is properly sized and in good condition. Sports are an incredible way to improve your quality of life, but injuries can sideline you. Protect yourself for the best experience and least risk.

4 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Academy of Opthalmology. Eye Injury Prevention.

  2. Bailly N, Laporte JD, Afquir S, et al. Effect of Helmet Use on Traumatic Brain Injuries and Other Head Injuries in Alpine Sport. Wilderness Environ Med. 2018;29(2):151-158. doi:10.1016/j.wem.2017.11.007

  3. Mantri SS, Mantri SP, Deogade S, Bhasin AS. Intra-oral Mouth-Guard In Sport Related Oro-Facial Injuries: Prevention is Better Than CureJ Clin Diagn Res. 2014;8(1):299-302. doi:10.7860/JCDR/2014/6470.3872

  4. Relph N, Greaves H, Armstrong R, et al. Running shoes for preventing lower limb running injuries in adultsCochrane Database Syst Rev. 2019;2019(7):CD013368. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD013368

By Elizabeth Quinn
Elizabeth Quinn is an exercise physiologist, sports medicine writer, and fitness consultant for corporate wellness and rehabilitation clinics.