Biomechanical and neuromuscular assessment of change of direction performance in male university soccer players

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University of New Brunswick
The purpose of this study was to identify biomechanical and neuromuscular variables that distinguish change of direction performance in a well-trained athletic population. Twenty athletes from the University of New Brunswick’s varsity men’s soccer team were recruited for the study. Vicon motion capture, force plate data, and electromyography (EMG) were collected simultaneously during the plant phase of the 505 agility test. The median time to complete the agility task was used to divide the athletes into a “fast” group (n=10) and a “slow” group (n=10). An ANOVA with an alpha level of 0.05 was used to compare group’s kinematic, kinetic, and neuromuscular data. Athletes in the fast group were found to have shorter overall contact time (p=0.011) and relative time spent in transition (p=0.001) when compared to the slow group. The fast group also produced more relative horizontal to vertical ground reaction force during weight acceptance (p=0.03) and push off (p=0.002). Kinematic analysis revealed that during weight acceptance faster athletes displayed a lower centre of mass (p=0.003), greater torso lateral lean (p=0.018), and greater pelvis rotation (p=0.004) than slower athletes. During transition the fast group had greater torso lateral lean (p=0.004), less spine rotation range of motion (p=0.035), and less hip adduction/abduction range of motion (p=0.02). Finally, the fast group was found to maintain greater torso lateral lean (p=0.015) throughout push off and a lower centre of mass at toe off (p=0.015). EMG analysis did not reveal many significant differences between groups, however, future studies should look to perform a more in-depth EMG analysis including trunk musculature during change of direction. The major findings of this study suggest that faster athletes adopt different technical strategies during change of direction than slower athletes. Professionals working to improve athletic performance can use the results from this study to improve athletes’ change of direction performance.