Football clubs push players to their very maximum in training, especially in preseason and in doing so look to optimise their physical conditioning. Whether this is actually achieved or even worthwhile is up for debate, but clubs are starting to pursue other avenues away from physiology to make a difference. Once such example is compression clothing.
Heavy leather balls, similarly leather clad boots and baggy cotton shirts are all a thing of the past with synthetic replacements in all areas allowing more movement and playing some part in the faster and more aesthetically pleasing game that is played up and down the Football League on a weekly basis.
The latest progression in the field of clothing is compression apparel. Whilst extensive research has taken place into the benefits such garments can have on recovery after exercise, the work of Dr Hosni Hasan has shown that compression clothing can directly improve performance in football.
Hasan began by explaining how he came into this area of research: “There is growing research interest in compression materials especially in improving elite performance. By reading the literature in this area of study, most studies were conducted on the area of physiology (running and cycling performance) and not so much effort was done in association football (kinematics of kicking, motor skills and kicking performance).”
Initially there is clear skepticism about the area Hasan has researched, however as he details, the evidence is clear to see. “Using compression materials can improve the speed of kicking leg during performance and thus resulted higher ball velocity compared to the normal socks/insole conditions. The kicking kinematics was also significantly different (higher ROM especially on the ankle) during ball contact phase.”
For some elite players who are by nature very superstitious and subjects of routine, suddenly changing to wear compression clothing during matches may well not be appealing. Hasan feels that the improvements are such that players really should make the most of them: “All players could use this compression materials as it can improve sensory feedback, which is important for planning and execution of action, during skill performance in association football.”
Sports kit manufacturers are already starting to introduce compression elements into their clothing adding another string to the bow of technological evolution in football. Surprisingly, Hasan was cautious in his response when asked about concerns that scientific innovation was taking the natural beauty out of sport: “In my opinion, technology is slowly taking the natural beauty of the game (i.e. implanted ball scoring technology). We as a sports scientists are trying our best to improve the performance of athletes in order to create greater excitement among the players and to the spectators who are watching the game. I believe that there should be a limit so that our excitement is not ‘overly controlled’ by technology.”