Engineering duo to sport sensor findings

Runners at the start of the Gold Coast Bulletin fun run
Sensors placed on the body could help monitor the effects of fatigue and other issues affecting runners

As Australian athletes count down to the July 23 opening of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, a couple of Griffith University academics are preparing for a different sporting stage.

Griffith has 13 student athletes in the Glasgow contingent, but 400 kilometres away in the northern English city of Sheffield, Professor David Thiel and Associate Professor Daniel James will be a two-man team at next week’s 2014 Conference of the International Sports Engineering Association (ISEA).

The duo will present a total of seven papers at the event to run from July 14-17.

The Deputy Head of the School of Engineering (Research), Professor Thiel says the scope of the Griffith data is broad-ranging and in many cases the result of collaboration with research students and interns.

“From the precision of ballet movements and proficiency in swimming to improvements in running style and cricket batting technique, technology is changing the way people move and perform,” says Professor Thiel, who will speak on the following project findings —

Ballet measurements: After small movement sensors were attached to the limbs of 35 dancers from Queensland University of Technology’s dance school, the dancers were asked to stand in first position and then perform a series of demi-plies.

“QUT’s Associate Professor Gene Moyle, who is also a Royal Academy of Dance instructor, scored each dancer,” says Professor Thiel. “We found that the sensors on the wrist and lower back correlated well with her scores, which is interesting because scoring is based on artistic merit and movement.”

Cricket bat swing: Small accelerometer sensors placed on the back of a cricket bat produced measurements determining the extent of backlift, follow through and swing force. Professor Thiel says this technique could assess batting skill level during practice and matchplay.

Basketball positioning: Wireless beacons on basketballers determined their location on the court. Analysis of accelerometer data could determine ball possession.

Wireless body network: With sensors on the foot, ankle, wrist and elbow, a centre hub on the chest collected signals from all sensors during running. This information could be relayed from the athlete’s body to study running style.

“The applications include monitoring the effects of fatigue and other issues affecting running symmetry and style,” says Professor Thiel.

Energy expenditure in swimming: By recording wrist, back and foot-mounted accelerometers on swimmers in a flume, and by using a breath-by-breath oxygen analysis, researchers could determine the relationship between acceleration and swimming proficiency.

Associate Professor James, from Griffith’s Centre for Wireless Monitoring and Applications, will present two papers at the Sheffield conference.

Instrumenting a leg press: Foot-mounted force plates allowed the symmetry of leg forces to be measured and relayed. Researchers found a natural predisposition towards favouring one leg.

Technology surveys in sport: Associate Professor James says a strategic approach to the incorporation of new technologies in sport requires understanding of what is now available, methods of data presentation and the demands on coaches to gain excellent performances from athletes.

“Many coaches are not skilled in technology use. However, most athletes are relatively young and familiar with social media and other new technologies,” he says.

The papers are available online at Science Direct