Academy of Fencing Masters Blog

Art of Fencing, Art of Life

5 Common Misconceptions about Groin Protection for Fencing

Men Groin Protection FencingAs I mentioned in a recent post, I know that talking about protecting our intimate areas is not the most comfortable subject. However, as a parent of two young boys, I’m up to the challenge of addressing the subject head on. The previous post tackled the question of “To wear or not to wear?”, and our answer is that groin protectors are highly recommended for safety and to minimize pain from any accidental hits. If groin protection is helpful, safe, and can save you from discomfort, why are so many fencers averse to wearing them? I think it’s due to these five common misconceptions.

1. Uncomfortable

Some fencers say that groin protectors are awkward and uncomfortable to wear, but with the right purchase and the right fit, the gear should fit comfortably. There are two basic options when shopping for a groin protector: hard cup and soft cup.

plastic protection cup

Hard cups are typically used in baseball, boxing, and hockey. We purchased some and tried them on. Our opinion? They are pretty uncomfortable to be honest, the hard plastic presses on the inside of the thighs, which can also restrict motion while fencing. Also, because of the rigid material, they don’t stay in place very well during physical activity (and that’s the whole point, right?). The upside? The hard material provides full protection. That might be necessary in baseball when you can take a line drive hit or hockey with pucks going at lightning speed, but these risks aren’t present in fencing. We vote against the hard cup as the best option for protection.

Pro: 100% protection (if it stays in place)
Con: Not very comfortable or stable

Note: With the holes for aeration, it seems possible that you could take a direct hit with unfortunate precision that misses your protector. We’re guessing that’s not too likely.

bioflex cup groin protection for fencing

Soft cups (gel or bioflex) are made of more flexible material (silicon) and are padded, often used in baseball and martial arts. You can also find gel cups, which are common in boxing. We recommend trying either of these options as a more comfortable alternative to a hard up. This way you get some extra protection in the event of the uncommon hit, but you don’t need the awkward hard piece of equipment bothering you in a bout.

Pro: Comfortable, you will quickly get used to it almost as if it’s not there and it won’t restrict your movement. BioFlex cup with silicon around is  our favorite.

Con: In the case of a very aggressive hit, may not absorb all the shock. As you might guess, we opted not to test this specific event.

jockstrap cup supporter fencingNote: A cup is often worn with a jockstrap to hold it in place, a support made of light material similar to cotton underwear. This adds one more piece to your gear and can be uncomfortable for males who are not used to wearing one. Also, I’ve realized that some boys don’t like them because they remind them of women’s underwear! What we’ve found to be a great option is to buy boxers/compression shorts with a built-in pocket for a cup. Simpler and more comfortable. You can purchase them for as little as $10 and you can get high-quality shorts for as low as $20-25.

Here is an example of the style we’ve found to work best based on our research. We’re not necessarily suggesting this specific brand, but this design works well.

compression shorts groin protection for fencing

Note: All brands, links, and photos are for illustration only and are not intended as a specific recommendation or advertisement.

2. Unnecessary

I’ve learned that many male fencers just don’t think groin protectors are needed. The misconception is that the likelihood of a hit is so low that it’s not worth it. The truth is, it happens. And even if it only happens to your child once, wouldn’t you want him to be protected? I discussed this in the previous post, but less experienced fencers are not as structured or precise, so it can be more frequent with younger fencers. Some say that good defensive skills replace the need for a cup, but your fencer can make that decision as he gets older and improves his technique. We say better safe than sorry.

3. Restricts movement

As I mentioned above, the key is to pick the right type of protection and take the time to find a good fit. In our experimenting, with a soft cup and a built-in cup pocket, you will barely know it’s there after a short time. If it’s affecting your game, maybe you need to go shopping!

4. Expensive

I know, fencing equipment can really add up when it comes to your bank account. But you can find good quality, comfortable groin protectors for minimal cost. Sure, you can find expensive ones, but there are plenty of economical options. Here are two examples from Amazon.com:

Cup: http://tinyurl.com/pfl5b45  – $2.27 + $5.19 shipping

Groin Guard: http://tinyurl.com/lhsg6ux  – $3.99 & free shipping

Shorts: http://tinyurl.com/omfsgev – $5.69                                                                                              

Prices change often on Amazon, but at the time of writing these three are priced at $4 -$8.   A small price to pay for your child’s safety, wouldn’t you say?

5. Not manly

This might be the toughest bridge to cross when addressing groin protection with your child. First, he probably won’t be too excited to discuss it with you for the first time. Second, since it’s not a required part of the fencing uniform and some males think the manly thing it to say, “Nah, I don’t need it!”, your child may be in the minority if he starts wearing a cup. We all know how much young children and teens don’t want to stand out from the rest. If your club doesn’t have a solid guideline and most males aren’t wearing cups, your child may feel awkward at first. Even adult males often take on this macho attitude of not needing the extra protection.

I suggest simply having a candid conversation with your fencer about safety and not placing importance on what others think. We all wear seatbelts in the car and helmets on our bikes because we value our bodies, why should fencing be any different? Tell them real men are smart and protect themselves when needed. If they need some guidance for talking about it with their clubmates, just tell them to say, “Hey, talk to me about that if you get hit.” That should end the conversation pretty quickly.
One last note, while we recommend groin protectors for all fencing activity, it’s of course not necessary for warm-ups, stretching, or any other training that doesn’t involve bouting. If you follow our suggestions, the boxers/compression shorts can be worn for the entire practice or lesson and the cup easily slipped in when it’s time to fence. No straps, no changing.

So there you have it, misconceptions addressed! No need to buy full body armor, but this small step to protect an important place is a no-brainer. Yes for groin protection for fencing!

full body armor for fencing

 

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13 Comments

  1. Paul

    I’ve never read an article about this written by a lady, really well done! Good looking out, thanks!!

    • Irina Chirashnya

      Well, I am a mom of 2 boys 🙂

      • Paul

        Good Mom! I have not experienced the reluctance to wear the cup, which is a great thing. Perhaps common sense is prevailing. Low blows happen more often than I had ever expected, particularly when fencing women. Not because they’re mean, but I believe it is because they are shorter and have a deeper more flexible lunge compared to many taller male fencers. The cup is not debated at my academy! Maybe women should consider it too!?

        • Irina Chirashnya

          Glad you are safe!

          • Paul

            Technical question: I only own hard cups. They are pretty uncomfortable so I’d like to try the exact soft cup you recommended (only $10 on amazon!) HOWEVER getting hit in the cup is still painful enough to be distracting for some time. Have you found that a softer cup significantly decreases protection? I know with both I’d be avoiding serious injury, but I also want to avoid the humiliation of a medical time-out as I “walk it off”. Any comparative data on impacts with hard v. soft?

          • Irina Chirashnya

            We haven’t see any issues with them and you should be fine even with the hard hit I believe, but of course it is not a scientific data, which we don’t have. Hopefully you will not have a chance to compare yourself neither 🙂

  2. Lynsey

    This is so incredibly important for guys! There was a boy who had a pretty serious testicular injury due to an epee to the groin. He obviously wasn’t wearing a cup. Now our studio has cup checks before each class for the guys. The guys have to tap on the cup to prove they’re protected. From what I hear it still hurts with the cup on but there won’t be any damage to the testicles. Even us girls are encouraged to wear female groin guards!

    • Paul

      The support [no pun intended] from the other team is great. Yeah, it definitely still hurts to get hit there, and there’s a limit on how many times it can happen before you can’t keep fencing, BUT you’re right, we’re not going to the hospital. A humiliating medical timeout is bad, but waayy better than the alternative!

  3. The guys have to tap on the cup to prove they’re protected. From what I hear it still hurts with the cup on but there won’t be any damage to the testicles.Perhaps common sense is prevailing. Low blows happen more often than I had ever expected, particularly when fencing women.

  4. Ruth

    Thank you for this article! My son has been fencing for nearly 2 years and his club ‘poo poo’s’ groin protection – which was one of my first questions after getting all his gear. But just a few days ago I had to pick him up from school because he was complaining of extreme groin pain. We went to the emergency room to have it ultra-sounded and he was diagnosed with epididymitis likely caused by trauma from fencing hits. He’s on motrin and antibiotics and now I’m researching groin protection so we don’t face this again.

  5. Aiden

    I’m 10 (boy) and I haven’t worn a cup. I got hit last week by a girl in my class and I was bawling like a little kid and couldn’t stand up. This is the the second time it’s happened and both times I couldn’t get off the mat and just couldn’t stop crying. What should I do or wear? My mom doesn’t really get it. And is it normal for a boy to fall the the ground any cry from getting hit in the private parts? I don’t want to be a wimp.

    • F Y

      Yes, this is perfectly normal–it has nothing to do with being tough or a “wimp!” Any big sporting goods store should have protection in your size. Ask your mom to take you to wherever they sell soccer cleats, baseball bats, etc.

  6. Daka

    When I was training fencing few years back, everyone was requered to have full protection if thay wanted to train or fence, from youngest to oldest members, men of women. And I am graitfull for that, since some fencers were practising Connan the barbarian school of fighting.
    For everyone who loves tgis sport, were protection. Fencing is one of the safest sports out there, but accidents still happend.

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