Plantar loading and shoe-surface interaction
: from early rehabilitation to return to football

  • Athol Thomson

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Lower extremity injuries are common in soccer football. Return to sport (RTS) is a continuum consisting a series of rehabilitation phases. Minimising risk of reinjury during this process, or after RTS, is of paramount importance. However, there is a lack of empirical evidence to help guide practicing clinicians through these rehabilitation phases or advise players on minimisation of reinjury risk.
The aims of this thesis are to examine the magnitude and location of plantar loading and traction forces at the player-shoe-surface interface during different phases of rehabilitation; to assess modifiable risk factors associated with shoe-surface interaction in football; to ensure findings are practical to allow translation for use in elite sport rehabilitation facilities. Study designs consist of three case-control studies, one systematic review with meta-analysis, and one longitudinal controlled laboratory (on-field) study.
Notable results of the first three case-controls studies are; Running speed and body weight alterations affect the amount of in-shoe force on an AlterG (reduced bodyweight) treadmill. Football players have significant limb asymmetries until nine months after surgical reconstruction of the anterior cruciate ligament. Regional plantar loading is altered in elite football players after fifth metatarsal stress fracture during certain movement tasks.
Systematic review highlights the lack of research about the shoe-surface interface and injury in soccer football. Meta-analysis of three prospective studies in American football showed players are more than 2.5 times more likely to sustain a lower limb injury when shoe-surface traction is high.
Peak rotational traction measured at the shoe-surface interface varied substantially across different months of the year, different grass species and with different shoe outsole types during a longitudinal study.
This thesis provides objective data to assist decision-making processes around specific rehabilitation phases or footwear choices to suit playing surface conditions to minimise risk of reinjury.
Date of AwardApr 2020
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorCarla Mc Cabe (Supervisor) & Eric Wallace (Supervisor)


  • Biomechanics
  • Soccer
  • Lower extremity injury

Cite this