Nuclear interactions can be the source of atomic displacement and post-short-term cascade annealing defects in irradiated structural materials. Such quantities are derived from, or can be correlated to, nuclear kinematic simulations of primary atomic energy distributions spectra and the quantification of the numbers of secondary defects produced per primary as a function of the available recoils, residual and emitted, energies. Recoils kinematics of neutral, residual, charged and multi-particle emissions are now more rigorously treated based on modern, complete and enhanced nuclear data parsed in state of the art processing tools. Defect production metrics are the starting point in this complex problem of correlating and simulating the behaviour of materials under irradiation, as direct measurements are extremely improbable. The multi-scale dimensions (nuclear-atomic-molecular-material) of the simulation process is tackled from the Fermi gradation to provide the atomic- and meso-scale dimensions with better metrics relying upon a deeper understanding and modelling capabilities of the nuclear level. Detailed, segregated primary knock-on-atom metrics are now available as the starting point of further simulation processes of isolated and clustered defects in material lattices. This allows more materials, incident energy ranges and particles, and irradiations conditions to be explored, with sufficient data to adequately cover both standard applications and novel ones, such as advanced-fission, accelerators, nuclear medicine, space and fusion. This paper reviews the theory, describes the latest methodologies and metrics, and provides recommendations for standard and novel approaches.