The biomechanics of soccer: a review

J Sports Sci. 1998 Apr;16(3):211-34. doi: 10.1080/026404198366740.


This review considers the biomechanical factors that are relevant to success in the game of soccer. Three broad areas are covered: (1) the technical performance of soccer skills; (2) the equipment used in playing the game; and (3) the causative mechanisms of specific soccer injuries. Kicking is the most widely studied soccer skill. Although there are many types of kick, the variant most widely reported in the literature is the maximum velocity instep kick of a stationary ball. In contrast, several other skills, such as throwing-in and goalkeeping, have received little attention; some, for example passing and trapping the ball, tackling, falling behaviour, jumping, running, sprinting, starting, stopping and changing direction, have not been the subject of any detailed biomechanical investigation. The items of equipment reviewed are boots, the ball, artificial and natural turf surfaces and shin guards. Little of the research conducted by equipment manufacturers is in the public domain; this part of the review therefore concentrates on the mechanical responses of equipment, player-equipment interaction, and the effects of equipment on player performance and protection. Although the equipment has mechanical characteristics that can be reasonably well quantified, the player-equipment interaction is more difficult to establish; this makes its efficacy for performance or protection difficult to predict. Some soccer injuries may be attributable to the equipment used. The soccer boot has a poor protective capability, but careful design can have a minor influence on reducing the severity of ankle inversion injuries. Performance requirements limit the scope for reducing these injuries; alternative methods for providing ankle stability are necessary. Artificial surfaces result in injury profiles different from those on natural turf pitches. There is a tendency for fewer serious injuries, but more minor injuries, on artificial turf than on natural turf pitches. Players adapt to surface types over a period of several games. Therefore, changing from one surface to another is a major aetiological factor in surface-related injuries. Heading the ball could lead to long-term brain damage. Simulation studies suggest the importance of ball mass, ball speed and player mass in affecting the severity of impact. Careful instruction and skill development, together with the correct equipment, is necessary for young players. Most applications of biomechanical techniques to soccer have been descriptive experimental studies. Biomechanical modelling techniques have helped in the understanding of the underlying mechanisms of performance, although their use has been limited. It is concluded that there are still many features of the game of soccer that are amenable to biomechanical treatment, and many opportunities for biomechanists to make a contribution to the science of soccer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Athletic Injuries / etiology
  • Athletic Injuries / prevention & control
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Clothing
  • Equipment Design
  • Humans
  • Shoes
  • Soccer / injuries
  • Soccer / physiology*