Significant changes to footballers’ body shapes due to improvements to football pitches and increased workload, researchers have found.
The new, better maintained pitches favour leaner body types than the muscular physiques of older generation of players.
These changes have reportedly created leaner and more slender body shapes in footballers.
Well-maintained pitches of today, along with tough new training regimes, have had a major impact on the evolution of footballers’ body shapes.
Muscle and power, epitomised by the likes of Alan Shearer, Emile Heskey and Wayne Rooney – have been replaced by the lean, slender physiques of today’s top players such as Jamie Vardy, Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford, say scientist.
A new report led by University of Wolverhampton sports scientists, reveals that the well-maintained pitches of today, along with tough new training regimes, have had a major impact on the evolution of footballers’ body shapes.
Lead researcher Professor Alan Nevill, at the University of Wolverhampton, said: ‘Footballers of today have adapted to the modern game, and as a result their body shape has altered.
‘Today’s players are more like endurance athletes than power athletes. To compete at today’s high levels, they are also working harder and harder so are much leaner.’
‘Modern players are ectomorphic, characterised by a lean, slender body, as opposed to the muscular, mesomorphic builds which were more common in the seventies and eighties.
‘A lot of this can be attributed to the increased quality of playing surfaces where footballers train and compete.
‘Modern pitches are immaculate and well-maintained and not the mud baths that they used to be.
‘Pitches used to get very heavy and soggy, particularly in mid-winter, which accounted for players being bulkier and more muscular.’
Significant changes to footballers’ body shapes due to improvements to football pitches and increased workload, researchers have found. The new, better maintained pitches favour leaner body types like that of Cristiano Ronaldo (pictured) than the muscular physiques of Wayne Rooney
Future footballers may look more like the slender bodied Marcus Rashford than the more muscular looking Wayne Rooney , scientists say
The findings, which examined more than 2,600 top-division players also showed a dramatic decrease in BMI, which Professor Nevill believes is an indication of leaner body mass.
The researchers examined how body size, shape and age characteristics had changed for footballers since the 1970s.
Findings showed footballers have steadily been getting taller, with an average height increase of 0.4inches (1cm) per decade.
In the most recent decade, however, footballers are now also lighter and nimbler, which researchers have put down to less muddy pitch surfaces favouring leaner body shapes.
Last December, Manchester United star Romelu Lukaku (pictured) himself blamed his poor form at the start of this season on being too muscular
Future footballers may look more like road runners and track athletes in body shape – leaner and nimbler. Pictured is Great Britain sprinter Katarina Johnson-Thompson during competition
Professor Nevill added: ‘Body shape is clearly important and English professional clubs might be advised to attract young, less muscular, more angular players as part of their talent identification and development programmes to improve future chances of success’.
‘In an industry that is so financially competitive, any advantage that can be gained has the potential to positively influence future performance.’
Last December, Manchester United star Romelu Lukaku himself blamed his poor form at the start of this season on being too muscular.
The researchers say it also has implications for the identification and development of talent to increase England’s chances of future success.
The full report was published in the International Journal of Sports Science and Coaching.