Comparative Study for Flexibility and Jumping Ability Between Young
Basketball and Soccer Players
Garefis A., Galazoulas Ch., Tsitskaris G.
University of Thessaloniki
of Physical Education & Sports Sciences
Department of Physical Education and Sports Science,
University of Thessaloniki,
The purpose of this study was to compare soccer and basketball
players’ physical condition at the ages of 13 until 16 years
Methods: Flexibility (sit & reach test) and jumping
ability tests (squat jump, counter movement jump, counter movement
jump with arm swing using the force platform by Bosco) were made in a
total sample of 327 athletes (179 soccer players and 148 basketball
players). Comparisons between these two sports took place, in each of
the groups based on age (13, 14, 15, 16, years old).
Statistical analysis showed significant differences between soccer
and basketball athletes at flexibility and jumping ability, mostly at
the age of 15. In all tests, mean values were in favor of soccer
Conclusions: The present study supports the
conclusion that at the ages of 13 to 16, soccer players seem to have
much better physical condition compared to basketball players at
parameters such as flexibility and lower limb muscle strength.
Further research should be made taking into consideration the type
and load of training, as well as the level of growth of the athletes
at these ages.
words: soccer, basketball, flexibility, jumping ability, age.
There is a great number of athletes that play basketball and soccer
today, which leads to the assumption that these two sports are among
the most popular in the world.
Basketball and soccer are dynamic sports that demand an intensive
load of training to satisfy the high demands placed.
The training program of these two sports theoretically is different,
based on the fact that during action, basketball and soccer appear
different. Additionally, some somatomorphic characteristics that
affect performance are evident in each sport, such us for example
height, or hand-eye coordination in basketball (Berg & Latin,
It must also be emphasized that besides the differences, these two
sports present some important similarities in their kinetic
characteristics, such as starting, jumping, feinting or sprinting for
small distances (Zakas, Mandroykas, Vamvakoudis, Christoulas,
Agelopou-lou, 1995). Furthermore, athletic abilities such as
coordination, agility, flexibility and power are very important in
both sports (Berg & Latin, 1995). Those kinetic
demand highly developed muscle power of the lower limbs, as well as
flexibility for better movement and injury prevention.
The lower limbs’ muscle power is known as one the most
important factors that determine
physical condition and as a result successful performance (Housh,
Thorland, Tharp, Johnson, Cisar, 1984).
In past research, vertical jumping ability was considered to be a
vital parameter for athletes’ physical condition (Bisschop,
Darot, & Ferry, 1998, Woodfork, 1998, Piastra, Capanna,
Cipolloni, Lazzini, & Bondi, 1998, Tamer, Ugras, Buyukyazi,
Ozkara, & Kutay, 1997, Sidhu & Badhot, 1981, Raven,
Pollock, 1976, Thomas & Reily, 1979), since it describes the
level of lower limb muscle strength, especially in those sports that
require performing a movement at maximum speed, as is basketball and
It must be stressed that jumping ability controls only the
power-speed ability, because for achieving peak strength in high
velocities such as jumping, landing or defensive movement, better
coordination is needed as well as the use of high contraction kinetic
units type II (Theorstensson & Karlsson, 1976, Coyle et al,
The most valid way of measuring and evaluating lower limb power is a
maximum vertical jump performed in two different ways. First from the
squat static position and secondly from the standing position with a
counter movement (Asley & Weiss, 1994, Bosco, 1979, Kraemer
Newton, 1994, Mayhew, Bemben, Rohrs & Bemben, 1994).
Another important factor that describes an athlete’s physical
condition is also flexibility. Besides the fact that flexibility is
very important for athletic performance,
it is also
correlated to athletes jumping ability and as a result with lower
limbs strength (Lee, Etnyre, Poindexter, Sokol, &Toon,
and therefore the reason that flexibility is a factor concluded in
most research studies that describe physical condition (Naughton,
Carlson, 1991, Nig & Maitland, 2001, Tamer et al., 1997,
et al., 2000, Stone, & Steingard, 1993, Bisschop, et al., 1998
Gilliam and colleagues (1979), concluded that each sport has specific
demands in each of the physical condition variables, and thus,
provided a logical basis on why these variables differ from one sport
to another. In the past studies concluded that the values of physical
condition parameters are highly correlated with the type of sport,
age, sex as well as with the division that athletes compete producing
different measures for muscle strength and flexibility (Kellis
et al., 1999, Zakas et al., 1995, Bisschop et al., 1998, Piastra et
Surprisingly very few studies were concerned with the physical
condition level of athletes that participate in soccer and
basketball, even though these sports are enormously popular throughout
the world. Most studies in the past were simply descriptive,
using small samples of athletes (Ārnold, Brown, & Micheli,
1980, Clarke, Wrenn, & Vaccaro, 1979, McDavid, 1977, Parr,
Wilmore, Hoover, Bachman, & Kerlan, 1978, Vaccaro, Wrenn,
Clarke 1980, Wickhiser, & Kelly, 1975).
Additionally, these samples consisted mainly by adults, or
professional, and National level athletes (Zakas et al., 1993, Berg,
& Latin, 1995, Bisschop, et al., 1998, Sidhu, et al.,
The effects of training in muscle strength and flexibility variables,
for soccer and basketball athletes during adolescence, are still a
research topic that has not been thoroughly studied yet.
The purposes of this study were to measure flexibility and lower limb
muscle strength in soccer and basketball players and compare
different age groups between the ages of thirteen and sixteen.
The sample of this study consisted of 327
basketball athletes, members of very well organized and highly
competitive teams of Thessaloniki, Greece, from the ages of 13 until
16 years old. From these athletes, 179 were soccer players (13 years
old: 41 athletes, 14 years old: 63 athletes, 15 years old: 43
athletes and finally 16 years old: 32 athletes), and 148 basketball
athletes (13 years old: 30 athletes, 14 years old: 50 athletes, 15
years old: 45 athletes and 16 years old: 23 athletes)
The sample was stratified to achieve
homogeneity of physical characteristics, and technical ability level.
It is noticeable that these athletes were also under an intensive
load of training during their daily practice.
The tests performed, measured two of
important parameters that define physical condition: a) flexibility
and b) lower limb muscle strength.
The sit and reach test which measures range of motion (Liemohn, et
al., 1994, Jackson, & Baker, 1986) was used to test athletes’
flexibility. For lower limb muscle strength (power-speed), three
different jumping ability tests took place using the electronic
device of the force platform by Bosco (Bosco, Luhtanen & Komi,
These tests were: 1.squat jump, 2. counter movement jump, and c.
counter movement jump with arm swing. Only one trial was accepted in
which athletes gave the best of their effort.
Comparisons of the flexibility and jumping ability test values was
conducted, between soccer and basketball athletes in each of the
groups based on age (13,14,15, and 16 years old). For data analysis,
t-test for independent samples was used with a significance level of
main assumption of this study was that the values of flexibility and
jumping ability between soccer and basketball players present no
statistically significant difference. As a result, training styles as
well as the demands of its sport, are not responsible for variation
and differences in these age groups in the level of flexibility and
lower limbs power-speed ability.
The results of this study showed that differences existed between
soccer and basketball players in flexibility and lower limbs
Statistical analysis for flexibility showed significant differences
between soccer and basketball players in the ages of 16 (sig=.530,
p<.004), 15 (sig=.318, p<.002), 14 (sig=.219,
p<.000) and 13
years old (sig=.828, p<.001). In all cases, mean values were in
favor of soccer players.
Regarding the lower limbs power-speed ability level based on the
force platform of Bosco, statistical analysis illustrated that
significant differences existed for: a. The squat jump in the age of
15 (sig=.029, p<.003), b. The counter movement jump in the ages
15 (sig=.034, p<.001) and 14 (sig=.168, p<.010) and
the counter movement jump with arm swing in the age of 15 (sig=.467,
p<.001). Again in all cases the mean values were in
values for flexibility and jumping ability tests at both sports and
Significant difference (p<.05)
|Squat jump||Counter movement jump||Counter movement jump |
with arm swing
|Sit and reach|
|Football 13old||26.27 |
|Football 14old||32.85 |
|Football 15old||32.79* |
|Football 16old||34.29 |
Furthermore, it appeared that in all cases and at all ages the values
registered, presented to be higher for soccer players, especially in
the age of 15 years old, where the differences appeared to be higher.
This phenomenon was even more evident for flexibility
jump test mean values
movement jump mean values
Counter movement jump with arm
Sit and reach test mean values
Despite the fact that basketball and soccer seem to have several
similarities during competition in parameters such as jumping,
starting, sprinting for small distances and conditioning, demands in
athletic abilities such as speed, power, agility and coordination,
present differences in training. Until now it could not have been
said that this difference could affect the level of athletes’
physical condition in those sports, especially in the ages that this
study is concerned with.
For flexibility alone, the greatest differences that were observed in
the present study between soccer and basketball players, may lead to
the conclusion that little concern is given for flexibility
improvement through practice in young basketball players. Even though
the test values present some improvement as the athletes become older
(Docherty & Beel, 1985), the mean values for basketball players
performing the sit and reach test are considered to be generally low.
A low flexibility level of basketball players was recorded in
previous studies testing professional athletes and/or adults in other
sports (Nig, & Maitland, 2001, Dopsaj, 1993, Bisschop, et al.,
1998). Naughton & Carlson (1991) also, demonstrated that
basketball players showed the smallest improvement from any other
athlete after a program with emphasis on flexibility.
A factor that should not be overlooked is that the somatomoprhic
characteristics of the athletes play an important role in
flexibility. Height is of greatest importance in this case, since
basketball players probably present the highest mean values compared
to most sports.
It is also known that height plays a suppressive role in the
improvement of flexibility in basketball. This phenomenon is more
immense during adolescence, which is the focus of this study. Growth
factors in the age of 15 present rapid changes, something that
influences muscles’ strength and flexibility. (O’
Neil & Micheli, 1988).
Especially in basketball
phenomenon seems to play a greater role, as it appears from the
results of the present study.
It was stated earlier that flexibility has a positive correlation
with athletes’ jumping ability (Lee et al, 1989). The results
of this study seem to agree with aforementioned statement, since
significant differences appeared also for jumping ability values
between basketball and soccer athletes, mainly at the age group of 15
It has been proved in the past with the use of isokinetic tests at
slow velocities testing lower limb strength, that basketball players
were more powerful than any other athlete (Imwold, et al., 1983,
Zakas, et al., 1995, Zakas, et al., 1993). Based on their
somatomorphic characteristics that seem to be quite logical (big
On the contrary, in some other studies, basketball and soccer
athletes presented lower values in lower limbs’ strength
compared to other sports (
Bisschop, et al., 1998,
Latin, 1995, Kinrkendall, 1986). In those studies the sample
population was adults and not children.
In the present study, it is evident that training may affect lower
limb muscle strength in these two sports, especially, in the ages of
14 and 15, where the values of the jumping ability were in favor of
Soccer players appeared to be stronger also in a study by Sidhu
Badhot (1991), except that in this case the sample consisted of
Jumping ability describes power-speed ability and not relative
strength. Based on Zaka, (1993), it appears that this ability can not
be affected dramatically by the training practices. As a conclusion
the results of this study may not become because of training
It is possible that the inhibiting factor that affects these results
is no other than the “rapid growth” of basketball players
at those ages. Growth combined with low flexibility levels leads to
low values of power-speed ability especially when compared to soccer
A conclusion supported by the evidence of the present study is that
at the ages of 13 to 16, soccer players seem to have a much better
physical condition compared to basketball players at parameters such
as flexibility and lower limb muscle strength.
The influence of training practice in the present study measurements
cannot be described accurately in both sports. Different conclusions
could be presented, only if an examination of the type and load of
training practice in both sports is recorded. Furthermore, it should
be stressed that an examination of the somatomophic characteristic
changes on the subjects during these ages could also affect the
results. Hence, only if these variables that significantly affect
flexibility and lower limb strength are thoroughly examined the
results would be more meticulous.
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