How is this vital gear that men love to hate actually designed? 

Most athletes don’t spend a lot of time thinking about how the devices they depend on for protection are made.  A football player just dons his helmet and trusts that its advanced design will protect him from serious injury.  After all, it’s designed with guidance from doctors, engineers, huge manufacturers (with a few lawyers and insurance companies sprinkled in too!).

But what about that “other area” males have to protect?  How do they design the annoying, but very necessary, athletic cup?

You may be surprised by the answer. 

An athletic cup is not a “cup”.  It’s a genital protection system.

Cupping your genitals, where the term “cup” came from, is not really what a cup needs to do.  Think about this… when a male takes a shot to the groin there are actually two impacts; the first is the hit to the cup, the second is when the cup then hits your testicles.  This second hit is what athletes think, and worry about.  Good product design can directly influence this. 

A groin cup has two parts: The cup, and the supporting structure to hold it in place.  Both parts have seen a revolution in design changes over the last 40 years.  From the simple jockstrap to the compression short which was invented, and directly supports (via cords to the cup itself) so the athlete can control his protective cup far more effectively.

When you think “I need to buy an athletic cup”, remember that that’s only one of the two parts of male protection. 

Athletic cup design is better now, and here's why. 

The first athletic cups were simple “cup shaped” pieces of plastic, metal, or even leather, pressed into the groin area.  These often provided little real protection from injury, and far less from pain. 

A, now defunct, athletic cup manufacturer when asked how they came up with their first cup design laughingly answered “Our graphic arts department did the first draft.”  While humorous, this showed that real change was needed to include more science and medical data.

Modern athletic cup design takes into account genital size, placement of the scrotum during activity, and even the displacement (the distance between the cup boundaries and your body parts) for particular sports.  Often this starts with 3D modeling based on the male body (including boys and teens) to compute the best size, shape and angles needed to prevent genital impact.

Many of the most innovative groin protection products today are engineered more than designed and some are owned by real athletes.

Athletes have a far better motivation to make their athletic cup better, safer and more comfortable.

Don’t purchase a cheap, outdated cup.

Designing and testing of athletic protection gear is very expensive and time consuming.  And many manufacturers just copy someone else’s work.  It’s cheaper and faster, but rarely will you end up with the modern improvements in those products. 

One thing you can check… is the athletic cup I am looking at patented?  This is often an excellent indicator of the design effort that went into it.  You can’t patent an old design that others have already done. 

As an athlete, there are plenty of other things to think about other than how much it will hurt next time I am hit “there”.   But when that hit does come have yourself protected by a modern product engineered to protect what’s very important to you. 


Watch and learn how you can change your game

Ben Thulen
Sports Injury Researcher, United States

Photo by Gustaf Lekholm 

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