Sports Biomechanics

Sports Biomechanics          
Prepared by  Prepared by: Christine May, Senior Research Consultant, Clearinghouse for Sport, Sport Australia (formerly Australian Sports Commission)
evaluated by  Evaluation by: Marc Portus, PhD, Head of Discipline, Movement Science, Australian Institute of Sport, Canberra, Australia (February 2016)
evaluated by  Evaluation by: David Pease, PhD, National Lead, Sports Biomechanics, Australian Institute of Sport, Canberra, Australia (February 2016)
Reviewed by  Reviewed by network: Australian Sport Information Network (AUSPIN)
Last updated  Last updated: 1 December 2017
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Introduction

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 uses quantitative 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 and 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 the high speed 3D VICON motion analysis system and testing is done in the lab.
  • Force Plate Analysis. Typically used for walking, running and landing activities and used in conjunction with the VICON system. 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.

     Australia map

    Australian

    • Exercise and Sport Science Australia (ESSA). Is a professional organisation which is committed to establishing, promoting and defending the career paths of tertiary trained exercise and sports science practitioners. Sport scientist accreditation is available from ESSA to those professionals working in the elite sports science industry. ESSA requires Accredited Sports Scientists (ASpS) and Accredited High Performance Managers (AHPM) to maintain their accreditation through continuing professional development.
    • Australian and New Zealand Society of Biomechanics (ANZSB). Was founded in February 1996 to be a forum for biomechanists from all disciplines, or areas of study, within Australia and New Zealand, to meet and communicate.

     
     World Map

    International

    • International Society of Biomechanics in Sport (ISBS). The society's aim is to provide a forum for the exchange of ideas for sports biomechanics researchers, coaches and teachers, to bridge the gap between researchers and practitioners and to gather and disseminate information and materials on biomechanics in sports.
    • International Society of Biomechanics (ISB). The society's membership includes scientists from a variety of disciplines including anatomy, physiology, engineering (mechanical, industrial aerospace, etc.), orthopedics, rehabilitation medicine, sport science and medicine, ergonomics, electro-physiological kinesiology and others. The major activity of the ISB is the organisation and conduct of its biennial International Congress on Biomechanics.
    • BIOMCH-V: Online biomechanics lectures. Endorsed by the International Society of Biomechanics. (YouTube)
    • American Society of Biomechanics (ASB). Aims to encourage and foster the exchange of information and ideas among biomechanists working in different disciplines and fields of application, biological sciences, exercise and sports science, health sciences, ergonomics and human factors, and engineering and applied science, and to facilitate the development of biomechanics as a basic and applied science.
    • European Society of Biomechanics (ESB). The goal of the ESB is to encourage research, disseminate knowledge and promote progress in biomechanics.
    • British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES). BASES is the professional body for sport and exercise sciences in the UK. Their mission is to promote excellence in sport and exercise sciences through evidence-based practice.
    • International Sports Engineering Association (ISEA). Serves the rapidly growing community of sports engineering academics and practitioners by promoting the field of sports engineering through information sharing between members, the publication of the journal Sports Engineering, the production of the biannual conference,The Engineering of Sport, and support of the biannual conference the Asia-PacificConference on Sports Technology

    Education 

    The path to becoming a biomechanist can be varied.  The main path is generally via an undergraduate degree in Human Movement, Sport, Exercise Science, Biomedical Engineering, or similar, then progressing to a PhD either by way of an Honours or Master’s degree in biomechanics.  Typically substantial progress towards, or completion of, a PhD in the biomechanics field is needed to be competitive for sports biomechanics jobs. 

    The University of Western Australia provides information on the potential path to a career as a sports scientist. Including computer programming as part of undergraduate or postgraduate studies is highly beneficial for a career in sports biomechanics due to the needs of the job, especially data processing.

    It would be fair to say the quality of the post-graduate program pursued is the most influential factor in terms of a career.  Quality supervision, resources available (e.g. lab equipment and facilities), and research history are important factors to consider when enrolling for post-graduate studies. Many universities both nationally and internationally have outstanding PhD programmes that focus on sports biomechanics.

    Professional Experience

    Due to the limited number of positions in sports biomechanics a common question, particularly from undergraduates, is; “How do I get experience in the field?” There are a number of ways to gain experience.  Annually the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) offers post-graduate scholarships for up to four positions in biomechanics.  These positions are normally advertised in September on the AIS careers website.  Many of the current biomechanists at the AIS and in the national high performance sport system have been through the AIS as post-graduate scholars. Post-graduate scholarships are particularly valuable for developing applied lab and in-field skills vital for a sports biomechanist.  In addition the scholarships help consolidate the knowledge learnt during undergraduate studies and can provide assistance with future career guidance and/or study paths.

    Whilst at university it is also worthwhile volunteering to assist with biomechanics studies and even to be participants in them.  Academic staff and post-graduate students are typically looking for assistance to conduct studies and helping out can provide a valuable window into biomechanics while at the same time gaining experience. After completing post-graduate studies there are the obvious paths of academia, post-doctoral studies, and research roles.

    Professional Accreditation

    In December 2017 the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) announced the introduction of a national accreditation scheme for sport scientists (including but not limited to physiologists, biomechanists, performance analysts, skill acquisition specialists and strength scientists) and strength and conditioning coaches. The schemes will be run in partnership with Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA) and the Australian Strength & Conditioning Association (ASCA). In order to continue receiving funding through the ASC's Sport Investment Agreements national sporting organisation will be required to ensure that all sport science and strength and conditioning staff have relevant accreditation with ESSA and/or ASCA by the end of 2018. The scheme will be reviewed after 2 years. 

    Many sport specific testing methods are used at the AIS. For example: 

    • Athletics - Instrumented starting blocks have been built which measure 3D force at both feet.
    • Cycling - AIS Movement Science has developed an ergo which measures pedal force, crank angle, and lower body joint kinematics in real-time. Wind tunnel testing of body position on the bike has been assessed with partner universities. Bike set is also conducted in the lab.
    • Kayaking - AIS Movement Science has developed a system which measures pulling force on the paddle, seat force, and boat movement.
    • Rowing - AIS Biomechanics uses the national standard Peach Rowing system. The Peach system measures gate force and angle, seat movement, and boat movement.
    • Sailing - A hiking bench has been developed to assess hiking technique and to evaluate changes over time with training. Working in conjunction with Cosworth various aspects of boat and sail performance can be analysed.
    • Skeleton - Pressure transducers have been built into the sled to measure steering patterns of skeleton athletes as they slide down the course.
    • Ski Cross - Instrumented handles on the starting gate have been developed to allow the measurement of force and the direction it is applied in.
    • Swimming - Wetplate system used to quantify the forces generated during starts and turns and fluid analysis to determine propulsive and resistive forces during swimming.

    Case Studies

    • AIS Biomechanics - Adapting methods for Para Swimming [video]. Senior Biomechanist Marc Elipot explains his very personal approach to working with Para Swimmers at the AIS. Australian Paralympian Jesse Aungles discusses the important relationship between Athlete-Coach-Biomechanist and how they all work together towards a single goal. (Sport Australia [formerly Australian Sports Commission]/YouTube, 6 February 2017) 
    • Javelin biomechanics study [video]. Kelsey-Lee Roberts and coach Mike Barber take javelin to the next level in preparation for the 2015 Javelin World Championships and 2016 Rio Olympic Games. (Sport Australia [formerly Australian Sports Commission]/YouTube20 August 2015)

    AIS Sports Science/Sports Medicine: Best Practice Principles

    The SSSM Best Practice Principles have been developed by the AIS as a practical guide to assist boards and senior management of sporting organisations in performing their oversight function in relation to SSSM practices. Download the full guide. (PDF  - 588 KB)

    Reports


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    Article iconArticles

    books iconBooks

    • Research methods in biomechanics, D. Gordon E. Robertson et.al. Human Kinetics (2014, 2nd edition). Demonstrates the range of available research techniques and how to best apply this knowledge to ensure valid data collection. (held by Clearinghosue for Sport, QP303.R63 2014; and Queensland Academy of Sport, 612.76072 ROB)
    • Biomechanics of sport and exercise, Peter M. McGinnis, Human Kinetics (2013, 3rd edition). Introduces exercise and sport biomechanics in simple terms to help students understand forces and their effects before studying how body structures deal with forces. (held by Clearinghosue for Sport, QP303.M34 2013; and Queensland Academy of Sport, 612.76 MCG)
    • Qualitative diagnosis of human movement improving performance in sport and exercise, Duane V. Knudson, Human Kinetics (2013, 3rd edition). Focuses on the processes behind movement observation, assessment, and diagnosis, emphasising how to recognise and correct errors in human movement. (held by Clearinghosue for Sport, QP303.K58 2013)
    • Biophysical foundations of human movement, Bruce Abernethy et.al., Human Kinetics (2013). Provides a an introduction to the anatomical, mechanical, physiological, neural and psychological bases of human movement. (held by Clearinghosue for Sport, QP303.A24 2014; and Queensland Academy of Sport, 612.76 ABE)
    • Paediatric biomechanics and motor control : theory and application, Routledge (2012). Brings together the very latest developmental research using biomechanical measurement and analysis techniques and is the first book to focus on biomechanical aspects of child development. (held by Clearinghosue for Sport, RJ133.P335)
    • Biomechanics of skeletal muscles, Vladimir M. Zatsiorsky & Boris I. Prilutsky, Human Kinetics (2012). The text looks at muscle biomechanics in its entirety - from muscle fibers to muscle coordination. (held by Clearinghosue for Sport, QP303.Z38 2012; and Queensland Academy of Sport, 612.74045 ZAT)

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