THE INFLUENCE OF LEG DOMINANCE ON HEADING PERFORMANCE IN ASSOCIATION FOOTBALL
University of Wales Institute Cardiff
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Leg dominance has been suggested to influence heading performance in association football, knowledge of the affects of bilateral differences may be important to coaches and the performer. The aim of the present study was to investigate leg dominance in footballers and its influence on heading performance and the overall purpose was to examine the biomechanics of jump strategy and how this affects jump height achieved. Six male national league standard football players with a mean [±SD] age (20.3 ± 0.52 years), stature: (1.80 ± 0.39 m); and body mass: (73.33 ± 3.48kg) were chosen to participate in this study. Each participant was instructed to perform six running jumping headers and take-off on one leg. Three jumps were performed with their dominant leg and three with their non-dominant leg. Eight active markers were placed on either side of the body to allow a full bilateral analysis of the skill. This allowed for 3D joint centres to be calculated via the use of an automated motion analysis (CODA) which was collected for a 5s period at 200Hz. Two Kistler force plates allowed for kinetic variables and flight time to be calculated and kinetic data was collected at 1000Hz, all of which were normalised to body weight. Kinematic and kinetic data allowed for a quasi static approach to be utilised, estimating the muscle moments and muscle power at the ankle, knee and hip joints. Parametric t-tests were used to test for differences between the dominant and non-dominant leg, while a Pearson moment correlation test was used to assess the relationships between jump height and the specific kinetic variables. The use of an Anderson-darling test displayed that all data was normally distributed and results displayed that participants were able to jump and header balls higher by 0.062m (12.24%) when jumping off their non-dominant leg. The non-dominant leg also displayed greater values for vertical and horizontal impulse during contact (22.7%, 15.2%), peak vertical and horizontal force (8.6%, 14.9%), take-off velocity (16.1%) and flight time (7.55%), all of which were significantly different (p ≤ 0.05). The ankle, knee and hip of the non-dominant leg also displayed greater rates of extension for angular displacement (4.5%, 2.5%, 2.2%), angular velocity (48.9%, 2.3%, 7.1%), joint torque (20.2%, 7.9%, 1.7%) and muscle power (57.1%, 22.8%, 18.7% respectively) at the latter stages of take-off (80-100%) of take-off. Take-off velocity (r=0.80) and flight time (r=0.74) displayed the strongest correlation with jump height. Performance increase for the non-dominant leg suggested that the increased angular velocity and extensor power of the planter-flexors at the latter stages of take-off had the greatest influence on the differences in jump height observed. The increased horizontal impulse and take-off velocity of the non-dominant leg also contributed to the performance increase and results suggest that footballers do exhibit bilateral difference. Therefore coaches could focus on improving the strength of both legs equally so players are not at a disadvantage when jumping for headers against other football players.
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