Q. What is the current thinking regarding athletic supporters? At what age should boys wear them, and for which sports?
A. Boys 5 and younger probably don't need athletic supporters because the velocity of their pucks or balls isn't strong enough to cause injury to the testicles, says Dr. Jay Berger, a pediatrician with ProHEALTH Pediatrics in Lake Success.
But once a boy hits age 7 or so, or engages in more vigorous competition, he should wear one.
There are two types -- one providing support for comfort, and one adding a cup for more protection, Berger says. For basketball or skiing, a cup probably isn't necessary, but for games during which the testicles accidentally could be hit with a ball or kicked by a foot, a cup is a must, Berger says.
Because they are suspended from the body, testicles are more vulnerable to trauma or twisting. "If you get injured there, it could affect fertility later on because that's where the sperm is produced," Berger says. "There's also the pain factor. You get hit in the leg, it's much less painful than if you get hit in the testicles."
Some kids resist athletic supporters because they find them uncomfortable or chafing, Berger says. But the old style, with pocket in front and straps around back, has been modernized. Compression boxer briefs are available with a pocket that an optional cup can slide into, he says. What's important is the right fit -- normally based on waist size.