Last updated on October 11, 2020
Your Growing Up for Boys site is really helpful! Thank you for being such a good resource for things. I have learned a lot about puberty and things like that from reading your articles.
One question I have: My gym teacher, this year, is making all of the guys wear an athletic supporter under our P.E. clothes. He said that’s what we have to wear — no exceptions. Some guys asked they could just wear briefs or compression shorts, but he said it had to be a supporter. I’m trying to get used to wearing it, but it’s tight and uncomfortable. Why aren’t regular briefs or compression shorts good enough for sports? I’ve heard of wearing a cup for baseball, but I don’t understand the point of a regular supporter.
I appreciate any help! It’s kind of awkward, and I didn’t want to sound stupid asking about it in class.
An athletic supporter or jockstrap is primarily used to protect your testicles during athletic activity. It keeps the testicles pressed up against the body and keeps the testicles from twisting as you move quickly or when you accidentally get hit. Twisted testicles are extremely painful and if the twist is severe, it can cut off the blood supply to that testicle and if not corrected within a few hours, the testicle can die. [“Athletic Cups and Supporters,” Urology Care Foundation]
For it to work, it must be the first thing you put on, going on underneath your underwear or it can be worn directly under athletic clothing without additional underwear.
Compression shorts work the same way as a jockstrap, but also serve as replacements for underwear at the same time. Most guys find compression shorts more comfortable to wear than jockstraps. I have no idea why your coach doesn’t allow compression shorts as an option. According to Brian Steixner, M.D., Director of the Institute of Men’s Health at Jersey Urology Group in Atlantic City, “You don’t need to wear this weird contraption that has these straps that wrap around your butt. You can wear tight-fitting underwear because it does everything a jockstrap did, which is to keep things high and tight. That’s all you need.” [Eric Spitznagel, “Whatever Happened to Jockstraps?” Men’s Health, 23 December 2015].
Jockstraps and compression shorts cannot protect you from a direct blow to the groin. For sports where this might happen, you can get a style of a jockstrap or compression shorts with a front pocket over the genitals where a protective cup is inserted. The cup is made of hard plastic that covers the genitals and redirects any blows to the edges of the cup, which has padding to soften the blow.
Regular underwear, such as briefs, will not work because the material allows too much freedom of movement in the genitals.
Thank you so much for the response! I never realized about the twisting testicles thing – that sounds very scary and painful! I didn’t understand what protection a jockstrap gave you if it didn’t have a cup, but it probably does a good job preventing that, even if it’s a little uncomfortable. I’m sure I will get used to it!