Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Football Cleats : The cutting edge

An essential part of the football boot (any code) is the cleat (stud) which attaches to the sole of the shoe and gives greater traction against the ground surface as well as improve stability of the athlete in motion. Football cleats prevent players from slipping and assist them in rapid changes of direction. The physical nature of the different football codes have resulted in the development of different types of cleats.

Modern soccer cleats are available in different materials and can be either be fixed (usually molded) to the shoe or are removable. At first cardboard cleats were used but these were replaced by rubber cleats in the early days whereas more recently cleats are made from synthetic polymers which are sometimes combined to give added strength.

Aluminum tipped cleats has been introduced and seem to be gaining popularity. In the past every major club had a 'Boot man,' whose job it was to ensure all the boots were well maintained. The Boot mans' experience was invaluable as he would impart his knowledge to the younger players on the type and pattern of studs to wear to suit the weather and ground conditions.

Cleat patterns (systems) help distribute pressure across the boot. Soccer cleats are usually worn higher on the heel and lower on the forefoot to give the player grip and different types are matched to ground conditions. To avoid slipping on soft, wet grounds cleats need to be long enough that penetrate the surface but without damaging the turf or synthetic surface. Lower softer cleats are required on firm grounds.

Injuries related to wearing the wrong cleats are quite common and can involve the knees and ankles. According to experts the most common knee injuries caused by wrong choice of the cleats are those to the ligaments and ankle injuries are usually due to sprains. Misplaced cleats on the sole of the boot may result in painful blisters. In recent years controversy has prevailed on the misuse of cleats in accidentally (or otherwise) wounding other players by cutting their skin.

The soccer code was quick to pick up on polymer cleats but rugby codes were less inclined. Now there are no longer any restrictions on specific types of studs provided they are not interpreted as “sharp or abrasive” by the referee (LAW 4(4b), IRB Regulations). The rules were changed and the IRB and RFU passed the responsibility for stud compliance under IRB Regulation 12 (and earlier for the BS kite mark) away from the referee onto players, coaches and club management. Pre-match, referees only checks for dangerous studs or illegal configurations.

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