The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Report Finds Soccer Injuries A Combination of Cleat and Turf

Posted by on Tuesday, May 21st, 2013


The most common types of soccer injuries include ankle or knee sprains, muscle strains, lower extremity fractures, and head injuries, according to New York University. This month, a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons revealed how soccer injuries occur. It turns out, it’s a combination of cleat and turf, say scientists at the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS).

How Turf Affects Soccer Injuries

“It appears that a similar cut made on four different surfaces, the best strain profile is in grass/cleat combinations,” said Mark Drakos, M.D. who was on the HSS research team. “So, there is less force occurring at your ligament for the same cut on that particular surface using this model.”

New artificial surfaces are said to pose a threat to soccer players. A 2010 study of the National Football League found that the new FieldTurf being used led to a 27% increased risk of lower extremity injury. In fact, the study found “there was an 88% increased risk of an injury to the anterior cruciate ligament and a 32% increased risk of an eversion ankle sprain.”

A study of amateur soccer players, specifically, found that 57% suffered injuries in one season. Researchers concluded that it’s more dangerous to play on turf during games than it is to practice on a natural grass field. Of course, these are just a few of the many studies conducted over the years — and the jury is still out as to whether or not turf grass is a significant risk factor for injury.

How Shoes Affect Soccer Injuries

Though soccer players may occasionally get “caught up in the turf,” we feel the shoes are the most important factor a soccer player has control over, with regard to injury. University of Calgary researchers found that surface had little to no effect on soccer injuries, but the least incidence of injury occurred when shoes gripped well as players sprinted forward and glided easily from side to side.

The cleat material, the number and size of cleats, and the cleat configuration are all modifiable factors. Similarly, the Hospital for Special Surgery researchers found that most shoes have “higher peak torque” (foot movement and movement force) on artificial turf — and that the sole material and cleat shape/pattern can affect torque. Shoes with smaller cleats place lower amounts of pressure on the foot and reduces the risk of foot stress fractures.

An independent review by a Bellevue College researcher found the Nike Tiempo Ronaldhino’s to be the top cleat for traction, durability and comfort. Adidas Predator Pulse TRX-FG was another model highly recommended by the reviewer for its superior performance. People with “problem feet” can find cleats especially for wide feet, plantar fasciitis, pronation, and orthotics.

Preventing Soccer Injuries

The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons recommends taking the following steps to prevent injury:

– Gradually increase your fitness level through practice.

– Warm up and cool down after every strenuous activity.

– Stay hydrated by drinking 32 ounces of water before a workout and an additional cup every 20 minutes.

– Wear shin guards and shoes with molded cleats (rather than screw-in cleats).

– Cross-train in other sports to prevent overuse injuries.

– Only return to the game if you have “no pain, no swelling, full range of motion, and normal strength.”



If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.