Body composition, anthropometrical dimensions and morphological characteristics play a key role in the success of soccer players. The objective of the new study was to evaluate the body composition and body image of a group of top-flight soccer players and compare the results with those of a group of university students used as control subjects.
Marta Arroyo, lead author of the study and researcher at the University of the Basque Country explained to SINC that "the initial hypothesis was that athletes in general and, in this case, soccer players, have a better perception and are more satisfied with their body image than young men their age with similar weights who do not play sports professionally".
Researches did not find significant differences in body image satisfaction between the soccer players and the control subjects. However, "the university students perceived their image much more precisely than the soccer players", said Arroyo.
The body composition study revealed that soccer players had more muscle mass and less fat than the control subjects; that is, they were thinner and more defined than the volunteer group. It is important to note that the professional soccer players are required to check these parameters periodically.
"While the control subjects tended to want a more muscular body with the same amount of fat or less than they had, the soccer players expressed that they wanted more muscle mass, but also more body fat", the researcher told SINC.
The soccer players' ideal image was more like that of the rest of the young men their age. "This shows that what is considered ideal from the point of view of sports is not the same as what is considered an ideal image from the social point of view", she added.
A total of 56 individuals took part in the study; half of them were soccer players and half university students. The soccer players who participated in the study play in the Junior Honor Division, 3rd Division and 2nd Division B in the Spanish league. "Currently, some of them have played with Real Sociedad's top team, while others play on 2nd division teams", said Arroyo.
To assess body image, the researchers used a computer program that showed participants real silhouettes on which they could modify several parameters, such as muscle mass or body fat. The soccer players and the control subjects used this technique to select the image with which they identified and the one they would like to have; their ideal.
The experts expect the results to be useful to all people who work in the field of sport nutrition and in areas related to psychology. "Although body composition is very important in the selection of soccer players, aspects related to satisfaction and body image are becoming more and more important", the researcher concludes.
- Marta Arroyo, José Manuel González-de-Suso, Celia Sánchez, Laura Ansotegui, Ana M. Rocandio. Body image and body composition: comparisons of young male elite soccer players and controls. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 16:628-638 December 2008
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