Sports Science

An Investigation of Factors Affecting Dynamic Postural Stability in Collegiate Cross Country Runners

Injury could lead to impaired postural stability which is commonly assessed during return-to-sport rehabilitation. The Dynamic Postural Stability Index (DPSI) estimates variability in tri-axial ground reaction forces. DPSI is higher in injured runners and predicts performance in soccer players. DPSI has also been related to ankle range of motion (ROM) and strength in military personnel. PURPOSE: To explore relationship between previous injury, ankle ROM and strength with DPSI in collegiate runners. METHODS: Twenty-seven Division I collegiate cross country athletes (19.8±1.3 years) participated. Athletes jumped over a hurdle on to an AMTI force plate and landed on a single leg for DPSI estimation. Three trials were performed bilaterally. Ankle ROM was assessed via active dorsiflexion and gastrocnemius length measurement. Ankle and hip strength were measured using a handheld dynamometer. An independent samples t-test was used to compare DPSI between injured (IG – those injured in the past 3 years) and uninjured (UG) groups. Pearson’s correlation coefficients were determined between DPSI and other variables. RESULTS: No significant difference was found for DPSI on left (IG: 0.30±0.03 vs. UG: 0.32±0.04) and right (IG: 0.30± 0.03 vs. UG: 0.31±0.03) sides. There was a significant moderate negative correlation between dorsiflexion ROM and DPSI (right side r= -0.605, p= 0.001; left side r= -0.452, p= 0.001). There were no correlations between strength and DPSI except for right inversion strength and right DPSI (r= 0.446, p=0.020). CONCLUSION: DPSI seems to be influenced to a greater extent by ankle dorsiflexion than strength or previous injury in a collegiate runners.
Listed In: Biomechanics, Physical Therapy, Posturography, Sports Science


Accurate measurements of tendon mechanics are necessary for biomechanists when trying to identify injury risk factors, optimise athletic performance and develop musculoskeletal models. Measuring Achilles tendon (AT) mechanics dynamically is now possible by combining motion capture and ultrasound (US). The aim of this study was to quantify sources of error when measuring AT length using motion capture and US, and establish their effect on calculated strain values. Errors in AT insertion tracking and data synchronisation caused differences in AT length and moment arm of 5.3 ± 1.1 mm and 11.2 ± 0.9 mm, respectively; this decreased calculated AT peak strain from 11.6 ± 3.5% to 5.4 ± 2.5%. These differences could significantly impact a researcher‘s interpretation of the effects of footwear, technique, and specific kinematics on AT loading.
Listed In: Biomechanics, Sports Science

Identifying key movements contributing to ground reaction forces in sports

Body-worn sensors are commonly used for field-based movement and load measurements to asses injury risks in sports. To further explore the feasibility of using accelerometers for assessing whole-body biomechanical loading, this study used principal component analysis (PCA) to identify important movements and their contribution to the ground reaction force (GRF) for tasks that are frequently performed during running-based sports. Fifteen team-sport athletes performed accelerated, decelerated and constant low- (2-3 m/s), moderate- (4-5 m/s) and high-speed (>6 m/s) running, and 90° cutting trials, while full-body kinematics and GRF data were collected with a three-dimensional motion capture system and force platform respectively. A PCA was performed on the combined marker trajectory matrices for each task to identify task-specific principal movements (PMs). Resultant principal ground reaction forces (PGRFs) were calculated from each PM and assessed by the root mean square error (RMSE) of the summed PGRFs (∑PGRF). Across tasks, PM1 primarily described anteroposterior body movements, but PGRF1 errors were very high (>4 N/kg). Vertical body compression was the dominant contributor to the overall GRF and was described by PM3 (cutting), PM2 (low-speed) or PM5 (moderate- and high-speed), but less important for accelerated (PM10) and decelerated running (PM7). These results demonstrate that fundamental movement features contributing to GRF profiles are task-specific, making generalised evaluations of GRF features across different activities using predefined movements (e.g. segment accelerations) is difficult. Future research should investigate if PMs and PGRFs can also be related to structure-specific measures of biomechanical load (e.g. joint moments).
Listed In: Biomechanics, Sports Science

The effect of a specific fatigue protocol in force propulsion and postural sway in female handball athletes

Fatigue is a case of interaction between different factors and is characterized by the increase in the perceived effort to exercise and produce force. However, the effect on balancing tasks are not completely understood, especially the time course of the postural sway parameters during the recovery phase. Twenty female handball athletes participated in this study. They stood upright in a one-leg posture supported by the non-dominant limb on a force plate. The center of pressure (COP) and the maximum propulsion force (FMAX) were obtained at baseline, immediately after the exhaustion due to the fatigue protocol and every minute during the first 10 min of the recovery phase. For the postural-sway measures, participants stood on the force plate for 30 s with eyes opened looking to a target. Based on the COP displacement, the ellipse area containing 95% of the COP data points (Area) was computed. The FMAX was measured during a countermovement jump. Specific handball actions composed the fatigue protocol in the format of a circuit with the gradual increment of laps. The force decreased ~9.5% after the fatigue protocol (p = 0.01) and returned to baseline values during the recovery phase at the fifth minute. For the postural sway, the Area decreased during the recovery phase until the fourth minute (p = 0.007). The fatigue protocol affected postural sway and force variables, which returned to baseline values after four minutes of the protocol. Therefore, we suggest that future fatigue analyses should be tested during this time window.
Listed In: Biomechanics, Posturography, Sports Science

Flexion Angle Dependent Differences in Joint Kinematics and ACL Force In Response to Applied Loads Are Conserved Throughout Skeletal Growth in the Porcine Stifle Joint

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) stabilizes the lower limb against translational and rotational loads while the knee is is multiple postures. Surgical reconstruction, the most common treatment for ACL tears, is intended to replicate the biomechanical function of the native ACL in the postures and activities related to daily living and high-impact activities. In order to improve outcomes from ACL reconstructions in patients in pediatric and adolescent age groups, we need to improve our understanding of the knee posture dependent biomechanical function of the ACL. As such, the objective of this study was to quantify flexion angle dependent changes in the response of the ACL and the total knee to applied loads in the anterior-posterior and varus-valgus directions using a skeletally immature porcine model. To do this, we collected stifle (knee) joints from female Yorkshire-cross pigs at ages ranging from 1.5 to 18 months (n=30 total). The joints were tested using a 6 degree-of-freedom universal force sensing robotic system under applied anterior-posterior loads and varus-valgus moments at 40° and 60° of flexion. Studied parameters included anterior-posterior tibial translation (APTT), varus-valgus rotation (VVR), and anterior force carried by the ACL and its anteromedial and posterolateral bundles. We found increased knee laxity (APTT and VVR) was associated with both younger age and increased knee flexion. Greater anterior force carried in the ACL, and specifically in the anteromedial bundle, was associated with increased flexion, regardless of age. These findings have implications in intraoperative graft assessment and biomechanical models.
Listed In: Biomechanical Engineering, Biomechanics, Orthopedic Research, Sports Science

Does Type of Unanticipated Stimulus Alter Knee Mechanics During Dynamic Tasks?

Noncontact ACL injuries occur during movements that involve sudden decelerations and changes in direction due to combined sagittal and frontal plane knee loading. Previous studies have shown altered knee mechanics when decision-making is involved, which may better simulate game-like scenarios in a lab setting. The purpose of this study was to determine how two unanticipated stimuli alter knee biomechanics during a dynamic task. Eight females and eight males, all recreationally-active, participated. Participants completed two unanticipated 45-degree cutting conditions (visual stimulus (VS); human defensive opponent (DO)). For the VS condition, a custom computer program presented one of three visual stimuli in a random order. For the DO condition, a research assistant attempted to “block” the participant’s running path with a defensive move, using the same three random-order tasks as in VS. For both conditions, participants had a reaction time range of 400-500 milliseconds. Separate 2×2 mixed-model repeated measures ANOVAs (condition×sex) were performed, with an alpha level of .05. Results showed a significant condition main effect for knee extension moments, which were greater in DO compared to VS (p=.009). Significant interactions were present for peak knee flexion angles and peak knee adduction moments. Females had greater flexion angles (p=.001) and adduction moments (p=.030) in VS compared to DO. Women had less knee flexion and more adduction moment in VS, possibly suggesting this stimulus amplifies ACL injury risk factors in females. A human defender increased sagittal plane loading in a manner that may better represent loading in game situations.
Listed In: Biomechanics, Sports Science

Effects of Increased Q-Factor on Knee Biomechanics During Stationary Cycling

Q-Factor (QF), the inter-pedal width, in cycling is the analog to step-width in gait. Increased step-width has been shown to reduce peak knee abduction moment (KabM), however no studies have examined the frontal plane biomechanics with increased QF in cycling. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of increased QF on frontal plane knee biomechanics during cycling in healthy participants. Sixteen healthy participants (age: 22.4 ± 2.6 yr, BMI: 22.78 ± 1.43 kg/m2) participated in this study. A motion analysis system and customized instrumented pedals were used to collect five trials of three-dimensional kinematic (240 Hz) and pedal reaction force (PRF, 1200 Hz) data in twelve testing conditions, four QF conditions of Q150 (150 mm), Q192 (192 mm), Q234 (342 mm), Q276 (276 mm), and three workrate conditions of 80 W, 120 W, and 160 W. A 3 × 4 (QF × workrate) repeated measures ANOVA was performed to analyze differences between conditions (p < 0.05). Increased QF increased peak KAbM 47, 56, and 56% from Q150 to Q276 at each workrate respectively. Mediolateral PRF increased 46, 57, and 57% from Q150 to Q276 at each workrate. Frontal plane knee angle and range of motion (ROM) decreased with increased QF. No changes were observed for peak vertical PRF, knee extension moment, sagittal plane peak knee joint angles or ROM. Conclusions: These results indicate increasing QF will increase peak KAbM. Future studies should examine the effects of increased QF on obese and knee osteoarthritis patients.
Listed In: Biomechanics, Sports Science

Lower Extremity Muscle Contributions to Ground Reaction Force during a Stop-Jump Task

Females commonly use a landing technique that creates higher impact forces when contacting the ground, thus leading to higher ground reaction force (GRF) acting upon the lower extremities, leading to an increased risk of injury. The lower extremity musculature plays a critical role in absorbing the energy of these impact forces during landing. Understanding how specific muscle groups contribute to ground reaction force may offer insight to creating more advanced landing retraining protocols. The purpose of this study was to observe how lower extremity muscle groups contribute to GRFs during an unanticipated stop-jump task. 3D musculoskeletal simulations of unanticipated stop-jump tasks were completed for five healthy females. Participant-specific scaled musculoskeletal models (modified gait2392) were generated. A pseudo-inverse induced-acceleration analysis was used to determine individual muscle group contribution to 3D GRFs. Means ± standard deviations were calculated for each muscle group during the landing phase. The vasti, soleus, and the gluteus maximus muscle groups were most responsible for bodyweight support, with the vasti and the soleus being the largest contributors (375.84±88.64 N; 267.39±103.70 N, respectively). The vasti group (165.63±74.94 N) were primarily responsible for braking and propulsion. Finally, the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and vasti group were the major generators in producing a medially-directed GRF, with the vasti group as the largest contributor (118.05±32.83 N). The vasti, soleus, and gluteus maximus appears to be the overall largest contributors to 3D GRFs. Landing retraining protocols may want to consider targeting these muscle groups specifically to improve landing performance and decrease injury risk.
Listed In: Biomechanics, Sports Science, Other

Relationship between Range of Motion, Strength, Upper Quarter Y-balance Test and a history of Shoulder Injury among NCAA Division I Overhead Athletes

Background: Several risk factors have been identified as contributors to the development of shoulder injuries, including glenohumeral internal rotation deficit, rotator cuff weakness, and shoulder instability. However, lasting deficits of the physical characteristics among overhead athletes with a history of a shoulder injury are unknown. Objective: To compare shoulder range of motion (ROM), strength, and upper-quarter dynamic balance between collegiate overhead athletes with and without a history of a shoulder injury. Methods: 58 overhead athletes were distributed into a shoulder injury history group (n=25) and healthy group (n=33). All participants were fully participating in NCAA Division I baseball, softball, volleyball, or tennis and free of any symptoms of shoulder injuries. An investigator measured active ROM for dominant shoulder internal rotation (IR), external rotation (ER), and horizontal adduction (HAD) using a digital inclinometer. Isometric strength for dominant shoulder IR and ER at 90° of abduction was measured using a hand-held dynamometer. The upper quarter dynamic balance was assessed via the Upper Quarter Y-Balance Test (UQYBT). Results: The injury group demonstrated a lower UQYBT mean score in the superolateral direction. However, there were no statistically significant intergroup differences in shoulder ROM, strength, ER/IR strength ratio, and UQYBT in the medial direction and inferolateral direction. Conclusions: Overhead athletes with a previous history of shoulder injury had poorer UQYBT in the superolateral direction despite a lack of ongoing symptoms or deficits in function. Well-planed dynamic balance training and related strengthening exercises may be warranted for overhead athletes to improve their upper quarter functions.
Listed In: Physical Therapy, Sports Science, Other

Could lowering the tackle height law to below the chest in rugby union reduce long-term brain degeneration?

The tackle height law in rugby union has been an area of concern for many years. It is currently set at the line of the ball carrier’s shoulder. The goal of this study is to use Model-Based Image-Matching (MBIM) and human volunteer tackles in a marker-based 3D motion analysis laboratory to examine the severity of a legal tackle to the shoulder/chest of the ball carrier (with no head contact) and the effect of tackles above and below the chest on ball carrier inertial head kinematics, respectively. From the real-world tackles, the estimated ball carrier peak resultant change in head angular velocity was 30.4 rad/s (23.1 rad/s, 14.0 rad/s and 21.8 rad/s in the coronal, sagittal and transverse direction, respectively). In the staged tackles, the median peak resultant head linear and angular acceleration and change in head angular velocity values for tackles above the chest were greater than for below the chest. The results support the proposition of lowering the current tackle height law. Due to the real-world tackle (MBIM), the ball carrier head kinematics indicated a greater than 75% chance of sustaining a concussion, based on the literature. This was the case even though no contact was made with the ball carrier’s head. Therefore, repeatedly engaging in this type of legal tackle may be detrimental for long-term brain health. However, by lowering the tackle height law to below the chest, ball carrier inertial head kinematics can be reduced significantly, thus reducing the repetitive loading placed on the brain.
Listed In: Biomechanical Engineering, Biomechanics, Sports Science