The Origin Of Shin Guards
What we now refer to as shin guards look to have originated from protective armour that was used in various types of battles throughout history.
Known as a greave in ancient times, the armour was often made from bronze and would cover a large area of the lower leg.
Although they appeared in pictures beforehand, the earliest physical evidence of the guards in this form were when archaeologist Sir William Temple discovered a pair of bronze greaves with a Gorgon’s head design in the relief on each knee capsule. It was later estimated that the greaves were made in Southern Italy, around 550/500 B.C.E.
So, the earliest discovered shin guards were custom shin guards!
Application To Sports
Fast forward into the 19th century and, inspired by their use in battle, various sports began to adopt the use of shin guards.
Cricket batsmen however were less concerned with protection and more with using their oversized pads to block the stumps, an advantage that was later outlawed by the leg before wicket rule change.
Other sports to adopt the use of shin protection include hiking, mixed martial arts, kickboxing and other combat sports.
Introduction To Football
As far as football is concerned, 1874 is the year shin guards are believed to have been introduced to the game by Sam Weller Widdowson.
A cricketer for Nottinghamshire and footballer for Nottingham Forest, Widdowson strapped an altered pair of cricket pads outside his football socks and the first shin guards were born.
Despite being initially ridiculed, his idea caught on and the equipment became commonplace.
Eventually players grew frustrated with the burden of extra weight under their socks and began to play without shin guards again, however FIFA regulations were later introduced making them compulsory.