Learning to play any sport safely requires the right gear. Both team and individual sports players have some gear needs. Cyclists need a helmet whether they cycle as part of a team or on their own. Football players need padding and helmets to protect against hits from other players. Whatever your sport — be it boxing, rock climbing, martial arts, or otherwise — it’s important to wear the proper gear so you don’t get hurt. Here are a few ways that wearing certain pieces of protective equipment can help you to be safe.

Helmets

Getting properly fitted with a helmet is critical to get as much protection as possible. Growing children need their helmets updated and refitted each season. Adults may find that padding inside the helmet can get compressed and require a helmet to be refitted or replaced over time. If the helmet covers the ears, it’s critical that the helmet fits snugly to avoid twisting or tearing damage to the ear cartilage. The fact is that 1.7 million people suffer traumatic brain injuries every year, so wearing a helmet is vital in protecting your head from serious head injuries.

Mouthguards

Mouthguards can protect you from a variety of injuries. If you play a contact sport, they can reduce the risk of tooth damage if you take an elbow to the face or smack yourself against someone’s head. They can also protect you from gritting or bearing down on your teeth. Many weightlifters find that a mouthguard can protect their teeth from damage as they push through to a higher weight. It’s important to note that mouthguards can reduce the air you can take in, so don’t be surprised if your cardio workout is a little harder with a mouthguard in place.

Padding

Padding is another tool that can help both in team and individual sports. Simple elbow and knee pads can make cycling less of a risk or at least reduce the recovery time from a spill. In addition, it’s important for kids and beginners of all ages to pad up carefully. Novices are more likely to make mistakes when they’re learning a sport, such as kicking the other player instead of the soccer ball. If you’re new to the sport, let your fellow players know so that everyone can put on the proper gear.

Goggles

As noted above, head injuries are a serious risk to anyone playing a sport. Among the long-term risks you can face, eye injuries are a worry. If you already wear corrective lenses, you may not need additional eye protection. However, for those who play squash, racquetball or pickleball, additional eye protection may be needed. Skiers and snowboarders need sunglasses, and protective goggles over your sunglasses can further reduce your exposure to glare and lower the risk of losing your sunglasses.

“It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt,” is a particularly apt maxim when determining what safety gear you need to play a new sport or an old favorite. If you’re new to the sport, pad up. If you’re playing with a novice, you should also pad up. Always wear a helmet to prevent head injuries, use a mouthguard if you tend to bite down when working hard, and invest in close-fitting goggles for the best eye protection.