Comparisons of Shin Guards in Preventing Tibia and Fibula Fractures in Soccer

Am J Sports Med 2000 Mar-Apr;28(2):227-33

Comparison Of Soccer Shin Guards In Preventing Tibia Fracture.

Francisco AC1, Nightingale RW1,2, Guilak F1,2, Glisson RR1, Garrett WE3

1Department of Surgery, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina.

2Department of Biomedical Engineering, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina.

3Department of Orthopaedics, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

The goal of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of a number of shin guards in protecting against tibia fracture in soccer players. A secondary purpose was to determine the relationship between the material and structural differences in shin guard design and the protection provided. Twenty-three commercially available shin guards were tested on a model leg containing a synthetic tibia that had been calibrated against human cadaver specimens. Each guard was categorized into one of four material types: plastic (N = 9), fiberglass (N = 6), compressed air (N = 4), and Kevlar (N = 4). The maximum combined force at the ends of the tibia, the principal strain on the posterior side of the tibia, and the contact time of the impact were measured using a drop track impact simulation. Shin guards provided significant protection from tibia fracture at all drop heights. The average guard reduced force by 11% to 17% and strain by 45% to 51% compared with the unguarded leg. At the higher drop heights, material composition and structural characteristics of the shin guards showed significant differences in protective abilities. These findings indicate that all shin guards provide some measure of protection against tibia fracture, although the level of protection may vary significantly among the different guards.