Case Study 7 - Biomechanics: Giving the scientist and the athlete the full picture
A grammatical definition of ‘biomechanics’ – ‘the study of the forces exerted by muscles and gravity on the skeletal structure,’ offers a clue how this sports science discipline can aid athlete performance.
Senior physiotherapist David Brandie and Alison Alcock, a special projects and skill acquisition scientist at the sportscotland institute of sport, both work at the ‘sharp end’ of applying the principles of biomechanics to help athletes who are aiming for the podium at the London 2012 Olympics.
And a state-of-the-art Vicon motion analysis system, using ten infra-red cameras to record and quantify an athlete’s subtle movements, is one of the latest innovations to be deployed by the multidisciplinary team at the (sportscotland) institute to fine tune an athlete’s movements and / or aid rehabilitation from injury.
Based within sportscotland’s House of Sport at Caledonia House in Edinburgh, the Vicon technology instantly translates recordings of subtle movement into 3D computer animations. In turn, this 360 degree picture feedback enables experts like Brandie and Alcock to carefully analyse and take steps that will aid the injury rehabilitation process and / or further enhance the efficiency of an athlete’s movement.
31 year-old hammer thrower Andy Frost from Broxburn in West Lothian was the first athlete to benefit from the motion analysis equipment, used to aid his recovery from a troublesome knee injury.
After explaining how the technology works, Brandie highlighted how Frost, a 2012 Olympic hopeful, has benefited from being assessed with the Vicon system. “First of all, we place thirty reflective marble-sized balls on specific points of Andy’s body. The infra-red cameras detect reflections from these balls and based on this information create a 3D image.
“In the past, Andy suffered from a knee injury, which resulted in his body making subtle adaptations in his hammer throwing technique to avoid knee strain. Unfortunately, this very subtle change in movement resulted in the athlete incurring hamstring issues to the detriment of his throwing performance.
“Using the new motion analysis system has enabled us to quantify the way in which his movement compensates for his underlying injury and so evaluate the effectiveness of our physiotherapy and strength and conditioning work.”
Frost commented: “Having had injury issues in the past, it has been really important for me to evaluate the effectiveness of my sessions with the institute’s scientists and to be able to analyse how my technique can be further improved to aid my performance.”