Sports Biomechanics

Sports Biomechanics          
Prepared by  Prepared by: Christine May, Librarian, Clearinghouse for Sport, 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: March 2017
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Community Sport Coaching
Australian Sports Commission

Introduction

Sport and exercise biomechanics is the study of human movement including the interaction between the participant/athlete 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.




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