Importance of Shin Guards
The use of shin pads is of paramount importance where player protection and safety are concerned. They are so vital that their compulsory use is sanctioned in the laws governing association football. Law 4 (The Players' Equipment) lists them as basic compulsory equipment. The terms "shin pads" and "shin guards" are often used interchangeably. However, the latter is the broader (and more appropriate) term.
Soccer is a contact sport. Unfair contact between players is prohibited by soccer law. However, even fair challenges can involve substantial contact. In addition, the fact that harsh tackles and serious foul play are infringements does not mean that they do not occur regularly.
Shin guards protect our vulnerable shins from the exposure to tackles, kicks and other knocks. Our shin bones are not properly insulated by muscle and tissue. Their location and proximity to the locus of action in soccer (our feet) make their use a priority. Without adequate protection in that area, you are not supposed to be allowed to play. You might feel that it should be your choice to wear such protection. However, that is the same as stating that you should have the option to wear the seatbelt or not.
Some laws are designed to enforce a social contract while others are designed for our own good (even though they punish us for infringing them). The penalty for not wearing adequate shin-protection is being prevented from playing or refusal of entry to the field of play. Soccer is serious about player safety.
Of the basic compulsory equipment, shin guards are the only one that has further stipulations. According the FIFA law, they must "be covered entirely by the stockings", " be made of a suitable material" and "provide a reasonable degree of protection". All of these stipulations are designed to protect the player wearing the equipment and other players as well.
It would be harmful to other players if one player decided to wear metal-plated shin guards, for example. Conversely, it would be foolhardy and useless if a player decides to use cardboard strips instead of the recommended rubber, plastic or other approved material. Shin-protection does not guarantee non-injury, particularly in instances of serious foul play and misconduct. However, it is like an insurance policy. In the event of contact (which invariably happens frequently in soccer), it reduces the risk of injury to your shin bone.
Without ample protection for your shins, you may not be able to play. The worst part is that if you do, you may end up with several cuts, abrasions or even a broken shin bone. Protecting your shin reduces your vulnerability on the soccer field and enables you to play with reduced fear. Don't enter the field of play without them.