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Sports Biomechanics

Prepared by: Michael Roeger, Research Consultant, Clearinghouse for Sport
Reviewed by: Australasian Sport Information Network
Last updated: 13 October 2020
Content disclaimer: See Clearinghouse for Sport disclaimer

Biomechanics is the study of human movement including the interaction between the participant and equipment. Primarily these studies are broken down into two broad areas: kinetics (the study of forces acting on the body) and kinematics (the study of movements of the body).

Biomechanics in sport and exercise

Biomechanics uses techniques including mathematical modelling, computer simulations, and measurements to enhance sport performance and reduce injury. It can be applied to a wide variety of sport and exercise activities in order to:

  • Identify optimal movement patterns to improve sport-specific techniques.
  • Analyse muscular recruitment and loading to determine the safest method of performing a particular task/movement.
  • Assist in developing proper movement habits which can be maintained long term (maximising performance and minimising injury risk).
  • Analyse sport and exercise equipment eg. shoes, surfaces, racquets, etc.

Biomechanical testing can take place in the lab or in the field, during training or competition. There are a wide variety of testing procedures in biomechanics depending upon the sport and also depending upon the skill within the sport. Testing methodology is determined based on the problem that needs to be answered and in consultation with the coach and athlete. Some typical biomechanical testing methods are:

  • 3D Analysis. Appropriate for many sports especially those involving complex body movements and where very accurate, detailed information is needed. Typically 3D analysis is done using high speed 3D motion analysis systems in a lab.
  • Force Plate Analysis. Typically used for walking, running, and landing activities and used in conjunction with 3D motion analysis systems. Useful for determining impact, braking and propulsive forces; calculating joint kinetics; and, weight transfer in dynamic activities.
  • High Speed Video Analysis. High speed cameras, such as Photron, can operate up to 1000Hz. Very useful for qualitative analysis of high speed movements and impacts.
  • EMG. Used for measuring muscle activity. Often combined with 3D motion analysis and force plate testing. Generally only used for higher level analysis.
  • Competition Analysis. Competition analysis where relevant performance variables are determined, e.g. athletics: split times, stride rate/length; rowing/kayaking: splits, stroke length/rate.
  • Accelerometers, Gyroscopes, and Lasers. Used to determine the technical characteristics of an athlete’s motion.

Resources

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