How men and women play soccer differently

Washington, Sept 2 (ANI): The significant differences in the knee alignment and muscle activation that exist between men and women also translate into the way they play soccer, says a new study.

Data reveals that males activate certain hip and leg muscles more than females during the motion of the instep and side-foot kicks - the most common soccer kicks - which may help explain why female players are more than twice as likely as males to sustain an Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injury.

"By analyzing the detailed motion of a soccer kick in progress, our goal was to home in on some of the differences between the sexes and how they may relate to injury risk," said orthopaedic surgeon Robert H. Brophy.

"This study offers more information to help us better understand the differences between male and female athletes, particularly soccer players," he added.

Using eight to 10 video cameras, 21 retroreflective markers and 16 electrodes simultaneously, researchers measured the activation of seven muscles (iliacus, gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, hamstrings and gastrocnemius) in both the kicking and supporting legs; as well as two additional muscles (hip adductors and tibialis anterior) in the kicking leg only.

Male players activate the hip flexors (inside of the hip) in their kicking leg and the hip abductors (outside of the hip) in their supporting leg more than females.

In the kicking leg, men generated almost four times as much hip flexor activation as females.

"Activation of the hip abductors may help protect players against ACL injury," said Brophy.

"Since females have less activation of the hip abductors, their hips tend to collapse into adduction during the kick, which can increase the load on the knee joint in the supporting leg, and potentially put it at greater risk for injury," he said.

Brophy said that although the study does not establish a direct cause-and-effect relationship between muscle activation and knee alignment and ACL injuries, the data "moves us toward better understanding of what may contribute to differences in injury risk between the sexes and what steps we might take to offset this increased risk in females."

The study is published this month in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. (ANI)

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