As a referee I see many players that wear shin guards that are too small or ill-fitting. Players typically view them as a necessary evil and feel that their weight interferes with their leg movements. Very few understand how critical shin guards are.
One youth player I know very well plays central defender on a top U13 team and really doesn’t like to wear them (here’s looking at you Sammy). She wears what looks like shin guards that are size XS and she also doesn’t like to pull her socks up. Half of her shin is exposed, the shin guards don’t stay in place (they rotate around her legs), and often fall out during games. My kids don’t like them either and try to wear a size down.
Shin guards worn during soccer matches can reduce the force delivered by a kick to the leg by 44-77%, depending on the type of protective guard worn. A study conducted at the Institute for the Preventative Sports Medicine and reported in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine concluded that shin guards can significantly reduce the risk of injury.
The shin is the third most common area of the body injured in soccer (after the ankle and the knee). Blows to the shin commonly occur when players kick each other instead of kicking the ball. Bruises and fractures are the likely injuries resulting from being kicked in the leg. (At this point I was going to post an image of a soccer player’s broken leg, but it’s simply too distressing to see. Google ‘broken leg soccer’ images if you’re feeling up to it.)
The force delivered by a kick from a fast moving player is enormous. This weekend I refereed a U17 boys game and at one point a kick was delivered by an outstretched leg (or possibly two at the same time – it happened too quickly for me to be sure) to the shin area of another player. Both players were traveling at high speed to be first to the ball. I am absolutely convinced that the leg would have snapped in half (or at least fractured badly) if it wasn’t for the shin guards and probably a somewhat off-center impact.
This kind of impact can easily occur at younger age groups too, and for both boys and girls. Older boys and girls deliver more force, but also have stronger legs. Younger boys and girls don’t deliver the same force, of course, but they also have weaker legs that don’t need much force to be seriously injured. And a player’s leg will never be the same after this kind of injury.
Please wear the right-sized quality shin guards and pull your socks up, Sammy. Thank you!
P.S.: Make sure to replace them every season and/or wash them regularly. They get very sweaty and dirty and typically don’t get cleaned. Your son/daughter is more likely to wear them and not develop a rash.