Many Mesoamerican societies played a ball game that held great significance, no just as a sport but as a ritualistic way of setting disputes. The Maya inherited this game from their predecessors the Olmecs, and they considered it so important that they built ball courts in all but the smallest towns.
Players were divided into two teams, and the game involved hitting a large, heavy rubber ball across the court and into high hoops. To play, they wore a loincloth with a thick padded belt to protect the waist and hips. They also wore padding on their forearms and knees, at the sides of the body, to protect themselves from injury when diving to the ground. Players also wore large headdresses and decorative chest ornaments.
To the Maya, the game represented the struggle between the forces of life and death, and the losers were often decapitated.