Go on now, admit it. Up until the build up to the 2002 World Cup, you didn’t have the faintest idea of what a metatarsal was now did you?
Some form of prehistoric dinosaur, a brand of Greek brandy or the posh name for that widget thingy that makes canned beer fizzy?
All of that changed when David Beckham was injured on 10th April 2002, just 51 days before the start of the World Cup finals in Japan and Korea. Beckham sustained his injury during the early stages of Manchester United’s Champions League quarter final against Deportiva La Coruna. He was stretchered off the pitch and the following day, X-ray’s confirmed he’s broken his second metatarsal bone in his left foot.
Cue, much wailing and gnashing of teeth, banner headlines in the popular press and more published medical diagrams than you could shake a stick at.
Since then, the word metatarsal has become part of football’s common vocabulary, so frequent are injuries now to high profile players – Wayne Rooney, Steve Gerrard, Gary Neville and most recently Daniel Agger to name but a few.
Since Beckham’s woes, the argument over protection provided by the modern football boot has raged on and on, and it shows no sign of abating. But amongst all the hysteria, what exactly are the facts?
Footy Boots has consulted with Dr Sharon Dixon, senior lecturer at Exeter University and expert on biomechanics. A leading expert in her field, the work of the biomechanics team at Exeter has been used at 15 presentations at international and national conferences.
FB: Hi Sharon, what, in your opinion, is the most common injury occurring in modern day football?
SD: Ankle inversion injuries (twisted ankle) are the one we see most.
FB: Is the modern football boot up to the job of giving players enough protection?
SD: The football boot of today is focussed primarily on performance. By working with professional players, companies have developed football boots that are light and comfortable. This may or may not be a good thing when it comes to injury.
FB: Is safety being compromised for style?
Safety may be being compromised for comfort and performance. For example, older style football boots that covered the ankle provided more protection from ankle inversion injuries. They may, of course, have resulted in greater injuries elsewhere on the body.
FB: What qualities should a player look for when choosing a football boot?
SD: Comfort, flexibility, ease of performing turning movements without studs sticking (hard to judge in the shop, but perhaps lab data on this could be made available).
FB: What advice would you give to parents looking to buy football boots for young children?
SD: For young children, a flexible football boot that allows the foot to move naturally is likely to be best. Restricting foot movement may limit the natural development of the foot. A young foot should not need support. It is probably wise to also avoid blades as there have been knee injuries linked to these sticking in the ground during turning movements and also players have received bad cuts from these. The jury is out on this, but seems sensible to go for conical studs that will rotate easily in soil or 3G surfaces.
FB: What can a player do, if anything, to prevent foot injuries whilst wearing modern footwear?
SD: Adequate training and conditioning to prepare for matches and avoid football boots that do not allow twisting movements easily.