Myth of bow legs lifted by soccer ball
The starting shot for the 2018 World Cup has already been given and Germany is in football fever. In many countries, soccer is the most common sport for children and adolescents. Football players are generally thought to have a higher occurrence of genu varum, better known as bow legs. A German team of doctors took a closer look at the connection between intensive football training and the development of bow legs to find evidence of this often heard assumption.
The team led by surgeons Peter Helmut Thaller and Julian Fürmetz from the Ludwig Maximilians University evaluated the data from 1,344 soccer players. All subjects have played soccer since childhood. In fact, the doctors were able to determine differences from non-kickers. The distance between the knees was 1.5 centimeters larger on average among the athletes. The experts suspect that asymmetrical muscle strength and increased one-sided loads on and around the knee joint could be the cause of the increased distance. This can occur in competitive athletes, especially during growth spurts before and during puberty. The results of the investigation were recently published in the "Deutsches Ärzteblatt".
"Intensive football game in the growing age can favor the development of genu varum (bow legs)", the doctors report in the evaluation. There is also an increased risk of osteoarthritis of the knee. The authors of the analysis advise doctors to point out this risk if footballers want to practice their sport at a high level of performance. As long as football is practiced as a leisure sport, the concerns are rather low.
How do the high loads come about?
Typical movements that soccer players frequently perform during training sessions and games put heavy strain on the adductors of the thigh. These muscles attach to the inside of the leg. In the analysis, the doctors report that the adductors pull so hard on the inside of the knee that they put a one-sided strain on the growth plates at the knee joints. This effect is enhanced by cleats on the shoes, since the force cannot be derived from an external rotation of the foot.
In adolescent bow legs - in adults osteoarthritis
Overall, the medical team found that intensive football practice in adolescents tends to increase the risk of bow legs, while adults are more at risk of knee osteoarthritis. It should be noted that this is performance-related sport that is practiced five times a week. For the time being, the doctors do not assume that the results will be transferable to recreational sports.
Famous kickers with misaligned legs
Observations for frequently occurring bow legs in the football industry have been around for a long time. Experts often quarreled about whether a connection between soccer and bow legs is just a myth or solid medicine. The most famous bow legs are probably Pierre Littbarski, for whom the crooked legs were almost a trademark. More current representatives are for example Kevin-Prince Boateng and Marko Marin.
Effects of bow legs
The deformity of the knee joints can often be seen at first glance, depending on the severity. The curved shape is also known as the varus position of the knee and leads to increased stress on the knees and feet. Typical symptoms are knee joint pain or leg pain under stress, morning pain when standing up or after sitting for a long time. The misalignment can favor the formation of kink-lowering feet. In addition, the risk of osteoarthritis of the knee increases. If only one leg is affected by genu varum, damage to the spine can occur. For many sufferers, there are no complaints from bow legs at all. (vb)