Back to work: the UK’s top football players and load cells

Published On: June 27 2018


The World Cup may still be happening out in Russia, but for professional football teams here in the UK, it’s back to work this week.

Whilst kids are preparing to leave school, Premier League Club players are heading back to their training grounds to prepare for the new season. This starts with a series of rigorous tests, including one that sets a crucial baseline measurement for the whole season, as Matt Taberner, head of rehabilitation for Everton FC, explains:

“We do (an isometric hamstring test) so we know (a player’s) baseline for the rest of the season. We’ll also do it at the end of pre-season, to see if there’s any change, and that will then be his marker until the end of the season. We have strain gauges, which detect force and gives us the information straight back to our laptops.”


The players are also put through three other crucial tests:

Eccentric knee flexor strength test

This shows how much force a player is generating with the left and right hamstrings.

Full-body strength test

This allows the coaches to calculate how strong a player is relative to his body mass.

Lower body power test

This assesses how much power the player is cable to produce relative to their body mass.


You can watch the squad being tested in a ‘behind the scenes’ video at YouTube: 

West Ham tests

Everton are not alone in putting their players through detailed testing. West Ham United Head of Medical Richard Collinge puts players through:

  • Cardiac screening and ECG
  • Blood tests
  • Musculoskeletal screening to measure the range of motion in joints and the flexibility of muscle groups
  • Weight and body fat measurement
  • Jump testing to look at the amount of power their muscles can produce

As Collinge explained on the Club website:

“Gone are the days when the guys could go away for six weeks and do nothing. We’re expecting them to come back with a good baseline level of fitness, so they’ve had programmes to go away with to provide them with that and it’s so far, so good.”

And yes, you can see the West Ham players in action on YouTube as well! 


Jump testing

As the Science for Sport website explains:

Vertical jump height has been shown to correlate with maximal strength and sprint performance and is therefore of interest to many strength and conditioning professionals.”

Jump testing is usually measured using a force plate or a contact mat. However, devices such as the Vertec, where athletes must reach up to a series of flexible vanes, has proved to be inaccurate. In a test of the four main ways to test jump heights, four methods were contrasted with a laboratory force plate. needless to say, it was the portable version of a load plate that came out on top!


Analysing force plate data

Data from a force plate can be used in three main calculations, as explained by Gavin Moir in a paper for the journal “Measurement in Physical Education and Exercise Science”:

“The peak displacement attained by the center of mass (COM) during flight was obtained from three different calculations:

(1) using the time in the air (TIA)

(2) using the vertical velocity of the COM at take-off (TOV)

(3) adding the positive vertical displacement of the COM prior to take-off to the height calculated using TOV (TOV+s).”

Moir concluded that the TOV method was the most accurate when measuring vertical jump height using a force plate.


New season, new turf

It’s not just the players who will be tested before the first whistle blows. A FIFA manual shows a method for determining the shock absorption of the pitch using various methods, including an ‘artificial athlete’ rig that uses load cells as follows:

“A mass is allowed to fall onto a spring that rests, via a load cell and test foot on the test specimen, and the maximum force applied is recorded. The percentage reduction in this force relative to the maximum force measured on a concrete surface is reported as the ‘Force Reduction’. “



New balls, please

For the new season, players will also have a new ball to play with, the Nike Merlin 2018/19 Premier League ball. Whilst we don’t know exactly how Nike test this ball, e do know what criteria any football must pass to be FIFA approved, as shown in this video. 


Load cells for sports testing

If you require load cells for any sports testing, just contact us. We can provide all sizes of load cells and can even manufacture to your bespoke requirements.

Just give us a call, drop us an email or (heaven forbid) send us a letter!