If you’re a guy of any certain age, chances are you wouldn’t think about striking the gym without a jockstrap. For your uninitiated, the piece known more formally as an “athletic supporter”contains an elasticized waistband and leg straps attached to a pouch that holds the testicles near the body. You women can consider it as a sports bra for a guy’s balls.

Bike Athletic, the jock’s apparent inventor and primary distributor, claims it has shipped 350 million supporters in the past 130 years. But lately, this great elasticized chain binding men across the generations has snapped. At my local gym, I’ve been horrified to view young guys lifting weights with boxer shorts peeking from their gym pants. I called Bike to find out if my observations reflected a greater truth. “Kids today usually are not wearing jockstrap sale,” answered spokesperson Jenny Shulman matter-of-factly.

The collapse of this age-old bond between fathers and sons might speak elegiac volumes, except for starters: Jocks don’t do much. Bike claims the contraption was invented in 1874 as “support for your bicycle jockeys riding the cobblestone streets of Boston.” The manly wisdom that has prevailed in locker rooms for over a century is the fact wearing an athletic supporter protects you acquiring a hernia. The doctors I spoke to explained to me that’s “an older athlete’s tale.”

“They sort of keep the genitalia from flopping around, is the perfect I could possibly inform you,” says Dr. William O. Roberts, a past president of the American College of Sports Medicine.

Jocks offer no protection versus the relatively common inguinal hernia, where a portion of the gut descends through the canal which has the spermatic cord. They also won’t protect from what’s called a “sports hernia,” an unpleasant tearing or weakness from the muscles or tendons from the pubis area that’s often known as “athletic pubalgia.” (Alternatively, the jockstrap apparently isn’t responsible for my high school bout with jock itch. The itching starts as soon as the warm, wet environment down there allows the fungus Trichophyton rubrum to flourish. That will happen jock or no jock.)

Bike doesn’t make any hernia claims. Its position is that athletic supporters somehow “fight fatigue” and “prevent strain.” Indeed, jockstraps execute a fine job of holding your balls out from harm’s way and preventing the scrotal sac from getting all (ouch!) tangled up. But while working out in boxer shorts (or stark naked) isn’t a wise idea, a reliable set of form-fitting briefs will probably get the job done just as well.

The best reason to put on an athletic supporter is so that you can wear a protective cup. Once again, for that uninitiated: Jockstraps are available in two flavors: plain, and a type of marsupial version that accepts a removable cup manufactured from hard plastic. A nicely-placed blow in this region is not only agonizing; it can destroy a testicle.

While most boys and men could possibly get by without athletic supporters, considerably more need to wear cups. Kids these days have helmets for practically everything-I wouldn’t be blown away to see my sons using them for violin practice. But surprisingly few wear cups for sports, because i make my sons do for Little League and roller hockey. (Note to parents: The narrower ones are less irksome.) They consider cups annoying, and apparently other fellows do, too, which could explain why many eschew them even just in situations that will often call for Kevlar.

I had heard that NFL players don’t wear cups but was still astonished when Joe Skiba, assistant equipment manager in the New York City Giants, provided confirmation. “Nearly all players feel that less is a lot more, especially padding beneath the torso,” he explained via e-mail. “They believe that it hinders their speed and gratification.”

Skiba says that many football players now sport a garment called compression shorts. Young amateurs much like the shorts, too, while they cost about twice as much as jocks. According to Bike, that has diversified its athletic undergarment portfolio in these jock-unfriendly times, these stretchy shorts provide support and “steady, uniform pressure” to hold the groin, hamstring, abdomen, and quadriceps muscles in place during “the twisting, stretching and pivoting dexjpky93 of a game or strenuous exercise.” They’re also supposed to “fight fatigue by helping prevent vascular pooling.”

As I ran this by Dr. Roberts, he sounded skeptical. “If the short is compressing enough to stop pooling of blood, can it not also prevent blood flow from below?” he asks. “Would this flow obstruction not bring about calf fatigue and loss of lower muscle function?”

No matter whether they “fight fatigue,” it’s no surprise that compression shorts are eating in the jock’s market share. The shorts both are more at ease-I usually thought jocks were a pain inside the butt-and a lot less embarrassing-looking.

But Bike thinks there’s snap from the old supporter yet. The business is launching a line with new fabrics and styles they say will hit stores the coming year. They’re also set to debut the “Boxer Jock” as well as the “Brief Jock”-products together with the support of the jock with no outdated appearance. After all, the Bike athletic supporter hadn’t changed in 3 decades-right around the time I started wearing one. Nowadays, I recently wear briefs to the gym. All the other stuff is definitely a lot of a stretch.