Monday, June 17, 2019

Women’s feet, soccer boots and common injuries

Soccer is the world’s most popular organised sport with over 265 million males and 34 million females registered with the Fèdèration Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). The popularity of soccer among girls and women in all parts of the world is on the increase at a time when some claim the continued absence of gender specific soccer boots creates multiple problems, injury, and reduced participation for women soccer players. According to (Wunderlich and Cavanagh , 2001) there are sufficient anthropometric foot variations to make the present practice of down-sizing men’s boots potentially hazardous for women players.

Men have longer and broader feet for a given stature and according to Wunderlich and Cavanagh (2001) there are two calf, five ankle, and four foot shape variables, in men and women’s feet. They discovered gender differences in the navicular height at the arch, the lateral side of the foot, the first toe angle, and the girth of the forefoot at the ball of the foot. Women’s feet generally have a narrower heel (where the shoe grips the back of the foot), a wider forefoot causing them to currently prefer smaller fittings to accommodate the heel and, higher arches and a significantly pressure load under the foot caused by their wider hips. This study highlighted female feet and legs were not simply scaled-down versions of male anatomy but rather differ in a number of shape characteristics. These differences, they author claim should be taken into account in the design and manufacture of women's sport shoes.

Most reported injuries (60%) in women’s soccer are located in the lower extremities (Junge and Dvorak, 2007). Female soccer players risk knee and ankle injuries with Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injury four times more frequently than their male counterparts. According to published data the majority of ACL injuries occur in non-contact situations. According to the NCAA, women soccer players have the third-highest ACL injury rates in NCAA sports behind men’s spring football and women’s gymnastics. The most frequently diagnosed injuries were ligament (ankle) sprains (25.7 percent), followed by muscle strains (21.5 percent), contusions (15.9 percent) and concussions (9.2 percent). Women soccer players were nearly three times more likely to be injured in a game (14.4 injuries per 1,000 athlete exposures) than in practice (5.0 injuries per 1,000 athlete exposures). Pre-season has the highest overall injury rate (9.1 per 1,000 athlete exposures), while the post-season has the lowest (3.8 per 1,000 athlete exposures) as compared to the in-season injury rate of 6.8 injuries per 1,000 athlete exposures. Contact with other players accounted for the majority of injuries. The most common activity at the time of injury during competition was general play (30.8 percent), followed by defending (16.0 percent), heading (10.1 percent), ball handling and dribbling (9.7 percent), loose ball (8.1 percent) and goaltending (6.6 percent). The action of heading the ball ranks sixth as the most common activity at the time of injury. Although a player's age may not affect injury characteristics such as such as type, body location, and severity, the longer you play and the more training you do, does increase the potential to injury . Research confirms, higher game injury rates in male soccer and these have been attributed to greater physical intensity of play during games.

The aetiology of soccer injuries is multi-factorial and “intrinsic” factors such as general condition, muscle tightness should be distinct from “extrinsic” factors such as weather conditions and playing surfaces etc. There are however, some indications suggesting a link between footwear and ACL injuries. The most common mechanism of a non-contact ACL rupture is a deceleration event and a sudden change in direction with a planted foot (i.e. cutting manoeuvre). At the end of the last millennium Asics developed an innovative cleat designed to help prevent rotational collateral damage to the knee, reported in Australian Rules Footie players. The prototype shoes soon became popular with other football codes including Australian soccer players. The Asics system allowed optimal traction without hindering the player from running freely on hard or artificial surfaces. Similar cleat patterns were incorporated within contemporary soccer boot design but increasing reports of players misusing their cleats to damage opposition players meant the innovation had a brief run before traditional stud patterns once again prevailed.

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Vojdinoski C 2019 Melbourne startup Ida Sports is on a mission to create the ideal football boots for women
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