A lot of female combative sports practitioners opt to go without groin protection due to (1) lack of good product availability, (2) sense of security (don’t have organ hanging between our legs), and (3) maybe they just haven’t gotten seriously attacked around that area…yet. In my quest to find a decent groin protector for myself, I tried four different groin protection, two made for females, two made for males. Two that fits inside a compression short, and two that is self-sustainable (same brand).
I think the Lo-Bloo Thai Cup 2.0 is my go-to if I’m sparring, and I am keeping the Lo-Bloo Aero Slim Female for Krav Maga everyday training. Both of them (1) provide good protection, (2) stay in place, and (3) don’t impede my movements. I’ll give an overview for each of these groin protector, and the reason I opt for the Lo-Bloo despite the slightly higher price tag (although if you include the cost of a compression short for the other two, the prices are actually similar). NOTE: The Aero Slim is a very new product (released in the beginning of July 2015), so these are thoughts after my initial testing of it. Therefore, although my initial impression is positive, it hasn’t been tested over a long period of time yet.
What is the job of a groin protector:
To quote the US patent of army-type groin protection (1929), a good groin protection should: “First, to provide means for protectum, which do not impede the freedom of: movement of the pugilist,–second, to preserve the wearers comfort and to avoid bruises or cuts,-third, to offer full protection for the groin,fourth, to divert the force of foul blows over a large area of the abdomen and the legs.” So that is for the apron-type armor protection for the groin. On a similar vain, sports-type groin protection should do the following:
- Provide cover for the groin: Its simple, provide direct cover for the groin. Most protector will do this just fine. (NOTE: I will skip on evaluating this as all the protectors I tried at least did this part just fine.)
- Force diversion: The groin protector should divert the force directed to your groin towards less sensitive area (rest of the hip, between the thigh).
- Does not impede movement: Not wearing groin protection will always feel more “comfortable”, however, a good groin cup/protector should give maximum protection with minimal interference to movement.
What are actually out there?
Quick Google search of “groin cup female” or “groin protection women” will bring up two types of results: the traditional boxing/martial-art type protector or the Shock Doctor pelvic protector (originally designed for hockey, but used by many for other sports). To avoid bulkiness, I crossed out the traditional boxing-type groin protector. So what I have left was either the pelvic protector (that fits in a compression short), or male groin cup.
Shock Doctor Pelvic Protector (need to use with compression shorts)
A piece of foam that covers the pelvic area with little force diversion
The Shock Doctor Pelvic Protector is basically a piece of hard foam (dual density foam) with hard plastic in the front. Although it added a layer of foam between the groin and the attack, due to its shape, it is not the best at diverting the force towards less sensitive area. In other words, I still feel the direct impact on my groin.
Not the most comfortable due to its width (body-shape dependent)
Also, it is quite wide, and made the movement quite awkward for me. (NOTE: I’m 5’5, medium built female. So this might fit really well for someone else, but just not me). The pelvic protector was $9.71 on Amazon. The Shock Doctor compression shorts that has a pocket for the protector costs from $25-35. Total cost = $35-$45
RDX Gel Groin Cup Guard (need to use with compression shorts)
Well constructed and provides good force diversion
For me, it does the job way better than the “for-female” pelvic protector. Its construction with the concave shape (intended for the male-specific organs) means that there was little to no direct impact on my groin, instead, the force is diverted to my inner thigh. The edge of the RDX cup is lined with gel (in blue), which enhances its ability to absorb even more force.
Free movement but will shift slightly throughout usage
It is narrower than the pelvic protector, which interferes less with movement. I wore this for Krav Maga and sparring, and it protected me well during both an unforeseen groin kick in sparring, and during actual groin-kick drills in Krav. I liked the protection I was getting, and I was moving about just fine. However, since it was held in place by compression shorts, it does move around slightly from time to time. I’ve found myself adjusting its position through an hour-long or 2-hours session.
I bought the RDX groin cup with the compression shorts for $25 on the RDX website, which makes it also cheaper than the Shock Doctor combo. *The great thing about this type of athletic groin cup is that there are so many brands producing them. If this is slightly too big, too wide, too narrow, another one is bound to fit better 🙂
Lo-bloo Thai Cup 2.0
A polymer version of a Thai steel-cup that doesn’t tie a cord along the butt crack
This is basically a high-tech and more comfortable version of a Thai steel-cup. The Thai steel-cup is the most protective groin protection you could find for combative sports. It is made of steel, and it is tied in place so it won’t shift. The Lo-Bloo Thai Cup 2.0 was designed for people who don’t like having a string along their butt-crack (Thai steel cup is tied that way, which means every time you put it on, it has to be tied again; the Lo-Bloo can just come on-and-off because of its elastic bands).
Clever design and strong construction
The Lo-Bloo Thai Cup doesn’t need a compression shorts, and is secured by their patented system to hold the cup (NOTE: the Patent No. on Amazon is incorrect, 1050598-0 is the application number, but as of May 15, 2015, US 9032559 B2 is the Patent No.) The system is an elastic waistband and an elastic cord used as leg straps. By using the leg straps to hold the cup around the thigh, Lo-Bloo avoided the string that goes along the butt-crack in traditional Thai steel-cup. Watch this video to see how it is assembled. The edge of the cup is lined with rubber that absorbs forces diverted to the hip/thigh. The cup itself is made out of polymer, and tested to withstand 4 tons of pressure (good enough for me). “The leg straps are woven out of textured polyester/lycra to prevent allergic reactions and rashes”-description on Amazon. That, is good product design. The Lo-Bloo comes with a drawstring cord lock so the length of the elastic cords can be adjusted around the legs. Once a good length is reached, the a knot can be tied on top of the cord lock to ‘save the setting’.
Pricey, but for a one-shot investment, worth it
It is pricey at $50 (I got it with a coupon code for $7 off), but I figure if it will shift less than the RDX gel grion cup I was using, I’ll give it a try. It is now my go-to groin protection for sparring, because it stays the place the whole time. The last thing I want to worry about during sparring is bringing my hand down to adjusting a groin cup… Tip: Lo-Bloo’s distrbutor in the USA is Competitive Ace. They price it at $49.99 USD. It is listed for $39.95 euro on the Lo-Bloo’s website (free shipping world wide). Depending on the conversion rate, that can be a better deal 🙂 Here are some other reviews on the Lo-Bloo Thai Cup 2.0: The Fight Nerd, My Muay Thai, Muay Thai Authority.
Lo-Bloo Aero Slim Female
I was going to just settle with the Lo-Bloo Thai Cup, but as of July 2015, Lo-Bloo introduced a new line of groin protection, the Aero. It has a model specifically designed for female, and I just got to try it. I was told the release date, and clicked ‘buy’ the day after. It arrived in 6-days (pretty fast given it was mailed from Sweden).
Shape and material
The shape of the Aero Slim is similar to the Shock Doctor pelvic protector, with the same patented attachment system as the Lo-Bloo Thai Cup (elastic washstand + elastic cord leg strap). The Aero Slim is very comfortable because it is narrower around where the thighs meet (compared to the Thai Cup and the pelvic protector). It also doesn’t shift around due to the Lo-Bloo attachment system. I was afraid that it will also have very little protection due to its ‘flatness’. I was pleasantly surprised that when I was wearing the Aero Slim, even though it doesn’t divert force as well as the Lo-Bloo Thai Cup or the RDX gel cup, it did a significantly better job than the Shock Doctor. Given their similar shape, I was surprised.
After some experimenting, I realize it was due to the rigidity of the Aero Slim (or the lack thereof from the Shock Doctor). I could easily squish the Shock Doctor, which means more force is transferred to me right from the center of the protector (instead of dissipating to the side, which will transfer the force to my hip/thigh). Whereas the rigidity of the Aero Slim keeps it from collapsing (see pic below). The table top seems to exaggerate the effect because the foam at the end of the shock doctor is the main part that is bending. I did a similar test with the protectors between my hand, where I’m supporting all sides of the protector. The Aero Slim keeps its general shape, whereas the Shock Doctor almost completely flattens out.
Note that the Aero Slim does not come with a cord lock for the leg strap like the Thai Cup 2.0. However, a simple knot can lock in the preferred length of the leg strap. Also, a cord lock can easily be added if preferred.
I’m glad I gave the Lo-Bloo Aero Slim Female a try. It is the most comfortable of all the groin protectors I tried. It has less protection than the Lo-Bloo Thai Cup, but its design provide even better accommodation for movement of the female body built. The Aero Slim is going for $29.95EUR on the Lo-Bloo website with free shipping worldwide (plus a 20% discount if you use the code “RELEASE2015”, as posted on their facebook page).
*UPDATE* After a few weeks of use, I realize that having the cord lock on the Lo-Bloo works way better. If you just depend on the legstrap (made of shockcord) to tie a knot, it is more likely to get loose and also stretches out the cord (see pic below).
So the simple solution is a to get at $0.50 cord lock and add it to the Lo-Bloo Slim. I hope in the future if Lo-Bloo updates this product, a cord lock will come with it. But a < $1 modification is not that hard for me. They might have taken away the cordlock (which was in the original Thai Cup 2.0) to decrease the bulge, but it honestly doesn’t add much more than tying a double knot in place.
I decided to keep the Lo-Bloo Aero Slim Female for general use during Krav Maga and maybe rolling in BJJ (heard that the shin on the groin could be pretty bad). And use the Thai Cup 2.0 mainly for sparring. It seems an overkill, but hell, I can’t return groin protectors (no one really wants to buy a used one…). And their utility is maximized with this arrangement. Maximum protection during sparring, and enough protection + best comfort during everyday practice. One last thing I want to stress is the ease of use for both of the Lo-Bloo groin protectors. After the initial adjustment. it is literally like slipping on another pair of shorts (hold both the waist band and the elastic cords around the legs together, put two legs through, pull up :D). I don’t have to fiddle around with stuffing the cup into velcro-ed sleeve in the compression shorts. Not a big deal, but efficiency is always great. =========================
Lastly, for those who ask why female need a groin protector?
For males, the external organs around their groin area gives the obvious reasons why groin strikes would cause crazy amount of pain. Female also have their genitalia in the groin area, which has a very high density of nerve endings. This means a hit to the female groin will also cause a lot of pain (watch these videos). A big knee or groin kick is definitely enough to take you out of the fight for the round if not longer. Bigger injuries such as a bone bruise to the pubic bone or a fracture may occur as well (might happen if you seriously got stomped on or kneed while clinched down). I’ve been hit a few times throughout my 8 years in marital arts, but I didn’t dive into looking for some good groin protection (that won’t interfere with my practice) until one incident…where I got toe-kicked (by someone with shoes on) straight into my groin. I was out for the rest of the night in terms of practicing, and going through google the whole night looking for a decent groin protector…
Be a good partner
For Krav Maga, I highly recommend any female students past the first level to get a groin protector of some sort. There are a lot of groin-attack in Krav Maga. If we want to be a good partner, having groin protection lets our partner practice their technique without worrying too much about pulling their kicks as much. It gives us the peace of mind that it won’t hurt as much (even in non-full force scenarios), and gives our practice partners the peace of mind that they are not hurting us.
Hopefully more companies will innovate on female groin protection
I’m glad that Lo-Bloo came out with a female groin-protector that is well-designed. As mentioned by other female athletes in combative sports, there are really too little choices. When I first looked for a groin protection, Aero Slim wasn’t released yet, so I went through the several groin protectors I listed in this post. Hopefully with more females getting into combative sports, more companies will see that the market is flooded with male groin cups but has literally no choices for female (just because the Aero Slim worked well for me, doesn’t mean it will work well for everyone else with different body types). Different brands competing will improve designs, and provide options for individuals with differing body built and preferences. Disclaimer: Paid for all of these products myself. At least the ones doesn’t feel like a waste of money since they contributed to the writing of this post.