Football players almost always wear some sort of underwear beneath their football pants. At the highest levels, players will generally just wear compression shorts. These don’t provide much protection but keep moisture from resting against the skin and don’t hinder the player’s athletic ability.
In my youth and high school days, just wearing compression shorts wasn’t an option. With safety and protection the priority, everyone on my team was required to wear a girdle with padding to protect our hips and tailbones along with an athletic cup to protect the most sensitive part of the male body. While uncomfortable at times, I was profoundly thankful when I took a helmet to the groin one year.
In this article, we’ll examine the myriad of options football players have when it comes to what they wear underneath their pants. When in doubt, it’s always best to provide as much padding as possible, but there are some worthwhile reasons why athletes at the highest level eschew this additional protection.
- Football players almost always wear some sort of underwear beneath their football pants.
- Depending on the level of play and the player’s position, this can be an athletic cup, girdle, compression shorts, or any combination of the three.
- Many professional football players will wear just compression shorts forgoing the extra padding and protection of a cup or girdle since they can be cumbersome and reduce flexibility and speed.
Also commonly referred to as athletic shorts or sliding pants in baseball, these shorts are skin-tight and designed to wick moisture away from the skin and keep the athlete warm or cool depending on the conditions.
In most cases, these shorts are made of a combination of polyester and spandex. 
The spandex allows them to stretch and provide a comfortable fit regardless of the player’s build and the polyester pulls sweat and moisture away from the skin to remain comfortable even when wet.
For players that wear a minimal amount of padding, compression shorts are a comfortable fit beneath standard football pants. They don’t compromise flexibility or freedom of movement like some more cumbersome clothing options. 
If I’m a player more concerned about maintaining my speed and agility and am willing to risk a blow to the hips then I’d go with compression shorts or something similar.
A girdle is made of a similar combination of spandex and polyester-like compression shorts. In a pinch, they can serve the same purpose. But girdles are also equipped with additional padding that’s either built into the shorts or comes with stitched pockets where padding can be added. This extra protection for the hips, thighs, and tailbone. 
While professional football players may forgo the extra padding so that they can maximize their flexibility and explosiveness, girdles are common at the youth and high school level where there is a bigger emphasis placed on protection.
A cup can be worn in conjunction with a girdle, compression shorts, or on its own. Like the extra padding provided by a girdle, athletic cups are more common at the lower levels of the sport. In fact, professional football players staunchly refuse to wear them. 
While a cup serves to protect the reproductive area of the male body, a cup is made of a hard plastic material that often pushes against the inner thigh and leg of the wearer. This can cause it to chafe and decrease a player’s sprint speed. In the name of maximizing performance, professionals are willing to take on extra risk.
Like the girdle, high school and youth players should always wear one. Yes, they’re uncomfortable, especially at first. But the extra protection is more than worthwhile at these lower levels. 
Most athletic cups and their supporting underwear are meant to be worn against the skin with the same polyester/spandex combination to provide a stretchable material that fits tightly and keeps moisture from the skin. It can be worn in conjunction with a girdle over the top, or with compression shorts underneath if that material feels more comfortable.
Getting dressed for football practice was always an event. By the time I was clad in a cup, girdle, and pants complete with thigh and knee protection I felt like a gladiator ready for battle. But for those just learning the sport, it pays to have as much padding as possible and I’m thankful that my coaches and leagues were so adamant about wearing the proper gear.
It still amazes me that football players in peak physical condition moving at top speed are willing to go into games with so little padding below the waist. But if no one else is going to wear the extra gear, I wouldn’t want to be slowed down by my own extra gear either.
Would you risk it? Or are you taking as much padding as you can into the game? Let us know in the comments below.