Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Question of the Week

Dave, Seattle, WA
Subj: Better athletes
Ryan, I am an Exercise Physiologist in the Seattle area and am having an ongoing debate with a client. Which group of top professional athletes are the most overall athletic: basketball players or soccer players? I have searched far and wide for stats.

ABC came close to settling this debate in the 1970s when they first broadcast Superstars, a highly entertaining program that pitted jocks against one another in a series of athletic challenges. Although the show featured stars from various sports, the athletes that won most often were soccer players. Kyle Rote Jr., for instance, won the competition in 1974, 1976 and 1977 and Canadian soccer player Brian Budd was so dominant during the ensuing World Superstars spin-off that he was asked not to return after winning the event three straight years. The dominance of soccer players over other jocks - and basketball players in particular - makes sense when you think about it. After all, soccer games are longer than basketball games (90 minutes vs. 48 minutes), there are fewer breaks in action, substitutions occur far less frequently and the playing surface is considerably larger (180 feet x 300 feet vs. 94 feet x 50 feet). Since soccer fields are so large the typical footballer runs over seven miles a game, which is more than a hoops star like Eddie Curry or Shaquille O’Neal probably runs in an entire week. I have no doubt that basketball players possess unique skills that allow them to excel at their own sport, but at the end of the day soccer players are in far better cardiovascular shape and are more likely to excel at a wider range of athletic pursuits.