Science

Women’s football is getting in the way of technology designed for men – Science et Avenir

Women’s football is not just a men’s game in which players are replaced by female players. Training conditions, equipment, equipment, many elements must be reviewed and adapted to the physiology of the players, whose risk of injury is increased due to these suboptimal playing conditions. This warning from scientists, doctors and women’s football experts is published in the journal Sports Engineering.

Unsuitable footwear leading to risk of injury

“Women’s football boots are just smaller men’s boots, they are not designed specifically for them,” said Dr. Craig Rosenblum, chief sports physician for the Women’s Football Association and Tottenham Hotspur Football Club. Spikes are one of the key issues raised in the publication. “The shape and volume of the feet of female players are different from those of male players,” says Katrin Okholm Krieger, the first author of the publication and an expert in the field of biomechanics of sports and women’s football in particular. For example, while small feet tend to be wider and long feet tend to be narrower in both sexes, sizes that should be considered small or large differ between males and females, according to earlier work from 2008.

“Another important criterion is the point of curvature of the foot,” adds Katrin Okholm Krieger. Because crampons stiffen football boots so that they can flex in a certain place at the base of the toes. The problem is that “the ratio between the toes and the foot in men and women is different,” explains the researcher. Thus, the fold site is not suitable for players who are at risk of stress fractures due to having to flex the foot where the bone is. Moreover, women’s shoes are the same size as men’s shoes, for less weight and muscle strength, as well as a different way of moving. “Technically, the pulling force that needs to be applied to extract these spikes from the ground will be stronger for the players than for the players themselves,” says Katrin Okholm Krieger. Therefore, their cats should theoretically be shorter, otherwise there is a risk of a potential increase in injury risk, although this has not yet been demonstrated.

Equipment hindering productivity

Where their male counterparts are stocked with appropriate quarter-size shoes, female soccer players must contend with sponsored pairs. The same problem with sports bras, which are dictated by a set provided by a sponsor rather than the specific needs of the players.

Thus, their equipment not only does not improve the results of athletes, but is currently a source of risk and discomfort. Even devices specifically used to track, quantify, and ultimately enhance athletic performance play against female soccer players. Wristbands and vests with GPS and heart rate sensors are too big and have settings for men. “Most of these tracking technologies were designed for men and therefore are not tailored to the female body and physiology, resulting in suboptimal data collection,” summarizes Dr. Naomi Dutson, co-author of the publication and sports performance expert. While there are some designs that integrate the device into sports bras, these are not always compatible with the specific breast needs of female players and therefore require more flexibility.

Combined vendor and research delays in women’s football

But the authors do not want to criticize the suppliers of sports equipment. Of course, these products are for men, but the rise of women’s football has caught the public’s attention lately, so they need to be given time to catch up with the market that opens up for them, says Naomi Dutson. Moreover, the scientific knowledge that allows developing these devices is also late. “Manufacturers are recognizing these issues, and there is a positive shift in the development of technologies specific to women’s football,” the researchers say. “However, due to a lack of research – data is often extrapolated from men to women – not enough is known about the specific challenges faced by top female soccer players, limiting opportunities for technological advancement.”

Players get injured more often

In the meantime, Craig Rosenblum is most worried about the health of the players. “Women players are more at risk for concussions and cruciate ligament injuries than male players, but we don’t know why.” These unknown causes underline once again the limited medical care that can be provided due to the delay in research on this issue. These injuries may have contributed not only to improper footwear, but also to the quality of the fields. Women’s football matches in the Women’s Super League (a high-level English competition) often take place on Sundays on a pitch that has already been used and therefore worn out the day before by their male counterparts.

SHOULD I REDUCE THE SIZE OF THE BALL? The size of the ball can also be considered reduced. “Women players have higher levels of white matter microtrauma than male players when they head big balls and cognitive changes that we don’t see in men’s football,” says Katrin Okholm Krieger. But the improvements expected from using a smaller ball have yet to be shown, she said.

Shorts color, “key change”

However, some improvements can be made without delay. Female soccer players are often required to wear light-colored shorts to match the colors worn by male players. “Many players are worried about the fear of traces of sweat and visible discharge during menstruation,” the scientists note. The staff also says players are asking them to watch their shorts when playing in bright colors. “Some players say they don’t even concentrate on the game because they’re afraid to expose themselves live with visible bloodstains on their shorts,” they add, echoing the experience of female rugby and tennis players. What may be a piece of clothing, thus affects the performance of the players. However, changing the color of the shorts “is a key change that can be implemented very easily and quickly,” concludes Kathrin Okholm Krieger.

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