Foot Function and Athlete Monitoring: An Interview to Antonio Robustelli
by Sports Excellence (Athens, Greece)
p.s. This is the english transcript of the interview originally published on n. 6 issue (March 2020) of the e-Mag edited by Sports Excellence (https://sportsexcellence.gr/wp-content/uploads/fylladia/SE_emag_issue06_MAR_2020.pdf)
Sports Excellence: How important do you consider the monitoring of an athlete to be, through the use of a modern software designed to measure training load and perceived tiredness?
Antonio Robustelli: Monitoring in sport has become one of the necessary steps in order to make sport science more “applied” to the needs of a daily management of workload, fatigue and adaptations. What is much more important, in my experience, is to choose the most suitable metrics to monitor and to properly transform these metrics into insights to power up the process of performance improvement. Monitoring has no value if you don’t effectively use the data to adjust and individualise the training variables to allow proper recovery/adaptation.
SE: How significant do you believe the functionality and mobility of the foot to be and to what extent does it affect athletic performance? If so, why?
AR: When discussing the functionality of the foot, we should think about a complex structure who has 26 bones, 33 joints, 20 muscles and 107 ligaments. Each one of these structures has different values of mobility and rigidity (stiffness) to allow proper roll-off of the three segments of the foot during walking, running and sprinting activities. It’s thanks to the complex interactions of a series of movements in a sequential manner that allows to reach proper mobility to adapt to the surface and rigidity to propel the toe-off phase. So a poor functioning (and trained) foot is likely to affect all the aspects of performance skills ranging from overall stability to acceleration, jumping and change of direction (just to name a few).
SE: Which parameter is most crucial when it comes to evaluating the ankle joint according to your knowledge and previous experiences?
AR: Again, there is no a crucial parameter as we have to look at the foot/ankle complex in a comprehensive and holistic way. However, range of motion of the ankle especially in active dorsiflexion is of paramount importance i.e. in sprinting where the ankle should be fully dorsiflexed in the ground preparation phase in anticipation of the strike.
SE: How important of a role does the structure of the ankle joint play in overall athletic performance? How can an athlete overcome the disadvantages of a badly structured ankle joint?
AR: In absence of any structural deformities and/or strictly medical conditions, most of the aberrant foot structures like elevated first ray, long second metatarsal or hypermobile first ray (Rao, Riskowski and Hannan, 2012) are a consequence of poor habits and shoes/footwear selection. Then the main goal is not just “to overcome” bad structure but to work with proper interventions in order to restore optimal mechanics in terms of joints alignments and load distribution.
SE: What advice would you offer to a center, such as Sports Excellence, devoted to the development of elite and near-elite young athletes?
AR: The creation of a systematic Training Framework is of paramount importance to ensure a constant development of all the abilities and skills needed to excel in sport performance. That is the process of having a systematic, clearly defined and well organised “Structure” which provides the optimal environment to the athletes in order to develop all the aspects (skills, athletic development, lifestyle, psychology, nutrition, training, recovery) related to their development. No results have been achieved without methods and organization.
SE: We have been informed that a book titled ‘’Applied Sports Technology: The Science of Testing, Monitoring, Training and Recovery" is in the making. When can we expect its arrival?
AR: Yes, I’m actually working at my book titled “Applied Sports Technology” and I hope to be ready with the final draft by the end of the summer 2020.
Antonio Robustelli is the mastermind behind the Omniathlete Performance Science. He is a professional high performance consultant and elite s&c coach from Italy: his area of expertise includes injury prevention, sports technology, strength training programming, speed development, recovery monitoring and return to play assessment. He works all over the world since 16 years with semi-professionals, professionals and Olympic athletes as well as professional teams in various disciplines. Regularly invited as a Keynote Speaker to hold lectures during international conferences in Sports Science and Strength & Conditioning, he is also an Editorial Advisory Board member of the Lower Extremity Review, the most authoritative magazine for lower extremity biomechanics, sports medicine and rehabilitation. Currently he is consultant for Federations, Governing Bodies, Olympians and for First Division football and basketball teams in Europe, Asia and USA.