Are ingredients such as fitness, skill, teamwork, a loyal fan base, and luck enough for Spain or the Netherlands to hoist the 2010 FIFA World Cup trophy?
Every year sporting goods companies release new models of sports equipment and technology that they claim enhance every aspect of a soccer player’s performance. The World Cup has given the sports apparel manufacturing and supplying giant Adidas the opportunity to unveil its latest technological marvels, the TECHFIT PowerWeb jersey and the FORMOTION uniform.
Although the company promises great potential for all those who don these wonder jerseys, not everyone is so quick to sing their praises.
“Direct physiological changes must first take place for the individual before such claims can be made," said Dr. Ben Hurley, a professor of kinesiology at the University of Maryland in College Park, and an expert in sports science and physiology.
Until recently, TECHFIT PowerWeb has been more commonly worn under a player’s uniform as compression apparel, but the new Adidas kits offer TECHFIT built into the jersey and the company claims to give players a performance advantage with a single layer, which is 45 percent lighter than wearing two pieces together.
According to Adidas representatives, "TECHFIT PowerWeb is a cutting edge athletic apparel design that reduces muscle vibration to maximize power, acceleration and endurance." Through the use of compression fabrics and bands applied in specific areas, Adidas asserts that TECHFIT PowerWeb is proven to increase a player’s power by 5.3 percent, vertical leap by 4 percent, sprint speed by 1.1 percent and enhance endurance by 0.8 percent.
"These percentages are so small that they could just be normal day-to-day or even trial-to-trial variation," Hurley said."Without raw data I'm unsure if these changes were statistically significant compared to a control trial."
The second jersey option is the FORMOTION uniform, which features what Adidas marketing materials call 'optimized garment construction with sculpted sleeve openings to accommodate maximum freedom of movement'.
It also uses a combination of moisture-wicking fabric and mesh construction said to improve body ventilation and keep the athlete at optimum temperature.
South Africa, Argentina, Mexico, Japan, Spain, Germany and France have worn both TECHFIT and FORMOTION uniforms during the World Cup. Greece, Denmark, Slovakia, Paraguay, Nigeria have all worn FORMOTION uniforms and the TECHFIT base layer. Players from the Netherlands are wearing Nike kit this year.
While Hurley is quick to doubt the claims of increased performance by Adidas without their raw data to support this, he does acknowledge that there might be a psychological aspect, in the form of the placebo effect.
“If a person believes this [uniform] could help them better, then it might be possible," he said.
"However, there must be an objective measurement to prove a physiological change by wearing this technology.”