Background of Goaltenders and Gloves
In soccer the goaltender, or goalie, is a defender that guards the goal and in contrast to any other player, he is allowed to use his hands to catch or deflect the ball. For this reason a goaltender must wear a different colored jersey, so that referees can distinguish him from other players that might accidentally touch the ball with their hands, and also wear special gloves. Traditionally gloves were not worn in the infancy of soccer, and are still not required, but most goalies today choose to wear gloves due to their ability to prevent injury and help play the position more effectively.
Hand and Finger Protection
Perhaps the most obvious reason that a goalie wears gloves is that they provide padding over the hands, which helps prevent injuries. Without gloves, a soccer ball traveling at high speed will cause the skin of of the hands to sting when struck, which can cause bruising. When balls strike the fingers, the inertia can be so great that it bends the fingers back and sprains them. Modern gloves have support for the fingers which helps prevent spraining and padding which protects the skin. Early gloves often came at the price of restricted hand movement, so goalies opted to risk injury in order to have better control, but glove technology today allows for good flexibility.
Apart from injury prevention, wearing gloves can bestow a goalie with some other practical advantages. For one, the material modern gloves use on the palms usually has great grip, oftentimes better than that of a bare palm. This allows a goalie to more easily catch and control balls. The stability and padding afforded by gloves can also make it easier for a goalie to deflect a ball--since the fingertips are supported so they won't fold back as easily. Gloves also keep the hands warm, so in colder temperatures, the hands will remain nimble rather than becoming slow and difficult to open and close.
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