The world’s largest soccer tournament is about to start. The 2014 FIFA® World Cup showcases the 32 best men’s national teams from around the globe battling to be the best in the world. With everything on the line, players push themselves to their limits and inevitably there are injuries.
Some might be minor, with a player only missing a portion of a game. Others can be career ending. The most important thing when talking soccer injuries is how to prevent them from happening in the first place. While proper training and conditioning are important, having the right gear should be a top priority.
Having the right cleats for the type of terrain you’re playing on is one of the most important things you can do to prevent serious injuries like a torn ACL. Other common soccer injuries include sprained ankles and hamstring pulls or tears, both of which are fairly preventable. Ask yourself; are you playing on grass or on artificial turf? Is the ground firm or soft? Different cleats have different types of grips; wearing one with too much grip for the field you’re playing on can lead to injury. On the flipside, wearing cleats without enough grip can lead to a reduction in your performance.
So how do cleats differ?
If you’re playing on firmer ground — which is usually in an area where there is not much annual rainfall — you need a cleat that has better grip. This gives you the ability to dig in and push off as you move and accelerate on the field. A firm ground cleat has multiple studs that are more rectangular than round.
If you’re playing on softer (wet) ground, your cleats are able to dig in more easily and do not need as much grip. Using a firm ground cleat on soft ground can lead to injury by putting extra pressure on your knees, potentially leading to ligament tears. Soft ground cleats have round studs on the bottom that allow a player to dig in with ease.
Artificial grass or turf fields are a whole other ballgame. With no dirt underneath the grass, firm ground and soft ground cleats don’t provide the right support. There is nothing for them to truly dig into. If you’re playing on artificial grass, look for a soccer shoe designed for specifically for it. It will look like an indoor soccer shoe but with small, flat, round grips on the sole. These smaller grips are made for traction, holding onto the fake grass material rather than digging in.
With turf fields, you’ll want a soccer shoe with many little round grips on the bottom since turf is shorter material than artificial grass. These shoes are designed for better speed and control and look more like an indoor soccer shoe.
In addition to choosing the right soccer cleat or shoe, make sure if you are dealing with a previous injury that you choose the right support. There are a variety of different braces available depending on which body part and what type of injury. And of course, make sure that you have a proper warm up before the match. For more on how to avoid soccer related injuries, check out Better Braces’ latest post on the subject.