I think if you’re going to play a sport, it should be without any protection whatsoever. Level the playing field. Your naked body (with your name and number painted on your sweaty back) exposed to what your fellow athletes may do to you.
The advantages of this: only athletes who take it seriously enough to risk injury and the judgement of the crowd would take up the sport. This would really turn the heat up on the competition, and we’d see the best of the best. It would increase the drama. You wanna get that run in, but you’re going to have to slide into home? How bad does your scrote want that run? This would also make it more engrossing for the fans. It would trade the cheap theatrics of team names and costumes for pure, undiluted drama. And if the fans want to follow the sport, they’d have to REALLY know the players. Once the warpaint gets rubbed off their backs by sweaty tackles or coarse dust, the only way for attendees to know their favorite players is by the shapes of their bloodied bodies.
This is the savage human spirit, unrefined and on display. This is “sports.”