Thursday, June 29, 2006
Blades: Sinners or Saints?
Duty of care and compliance with Law 4, which states ‘a player must not use equipment or wear anything which is dangerous to himself or another player…’ make all players responsible for the upkeep of their boots tand o ensure that they are safe, regardless of the type of stud featured. Blades are a special type of stud, so-called because of their shape. Blades are designed to grip the turf, offering more stability for the player when jumping, landing as well as turning and pivoting. A particular concern relating to blades (cleats) is they are responsible for a significant increase in laceration type injuries. Rifts between Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsenal’s, manager Arsène Wenger are legend but one thing they both have in common is their dislike for blades. Indeed Ferguson has banned them from Old Trafford convinced they are the cause of needless injury. The studs have been blamed to slicing into flesh and causing injuries more usually seen in car crashes. The English Football Association has been collecting anecdotal evidence since their introduction and contacted FIFA in 2002 as to their concerns. Two years later FIFA had failed to reply. Medics have also joined the debate alarmed at the increase in injuries corresponding to the adoption of cleats on football boots. Injury rates in other football codes i.e. rugby league, has shown similar patterns. Despite these genuine concerns it appears to be no evidence-based research to indicate that new boots are more unsafe or produce more injuries than with traditional conical studs. An adidas spokesperson said in 2004, “our tests show that there was some wear to the uppers, but the Traxion studs were found to be smooth, flat and rounded-off with no sharp edges (which is consistent with our wear test findings of our internal and external testing bodies)…….Following the examination we are of the opinion that the injuries were an unfortunate accident, which of course do happen in contact sports such as football". As the number of players using blade style footwear increases then the number of injuries resulting directly from blades is proportionately increased. Currently there are fourteen manufacturers who retail bladed styles of boot. Responsible company’s advise blades should only be worn in certain conditions and clearly mark their boxes FG (suitable for firm ground) and SG (for soft ground). However in 2004 the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) issued a position statement: “RoSPA is concerned at the increasing number of reports involving blade studded soccer boots.” Dr David Jenkins, RoSPA's Product Safety Adviser said information about the number and severity of injuries caused by the blade studs should be made more widely known. This would enable players, managers and officials to assess the risk and take appropriate action to deal with it. In January 2005, Consumers Association Which? Magazine reported their concerns at the number of blade related injuries. Later the same year BBC Watchdog programme ran an exposè. Concerns were expressed at the number of laceration injuries thought to be associates but experts believe playing in blade style boots can also contribute to serious joint injuries, especially in children. Twisting injuries cause by increased grip of the cleat in the soft ground sends destructive forces through ankle and knee joints. The BBC approached the English FA, FIFA and all the boot manufacturers but the official response was there is no firm evidence to suggest blades cause any more injuries than traditional studs. A large proportion of football injuries are ligamentous and involve either the knee or the ankle. Shoe-surface traction is thought to play a specific role and likely to correlate with injury incidence. The correlation between footwear, performance and rates of injury was illustrated in the 90s when researchers established the fewer studs on the sole of the boot then the greater performance.. Concerns at preventing knee injuries caused by rotational forces during jumping and landing led to the discovery that by increasing the width of the stud position over the ball of the foot the less destructive rotation reported. These theories led directly to the development of the cleat (or blade) to replace the traditional stud on football boots to improve shoe-surface traction.