The sport biomechanics research group is based in the National Indoor Athletics Centre, within the Cardiff School of Sport on the Cyncoed Campus.
Our research focuses on understanding and improving sports performance and reducing injury by combining computer simulation modelling and advanced measurement techniques within a sporting context. We are currently working to improve understanding of the mechanics of skills like running, jumping and landing in athletics, swinging in gymnastics and kicking in soccer. There are two key strands to our work; ‘computer modelling’ and the ‘coaching-biomechanics interface’. The modelling team uses forward dynamics simulations of running jumps and impact landings to examine timing, coordination and force production with the goal of optimising performance and reducing injury. The coaching-biomechanics interface team addresses questions which combine coaches’ conceptual understanding of technique and performance with fine grained biomechanical analyses of skills. The work ranges from developing coach friendly graphical user interfaces through to complex inter-segmental coupling and inverse dynamic analyses. The aim is to understand the musculoskeletal contributions to performance and to bridge the gap between theory and practice be providing scientifically grounded but coach friendly feedback.
The coaching-biomechanics interface
The coaching-biomechanics interface is a term that we use to conceptualise how coaching can be informed from a biomechanical perspective. The process involved here is a continuous one, with each cycle starting and ending with the athlete. The process is based on a coach’s tacit knowledge in relation to the practices that are routinely used to develop athletes’ skills. This information, through systematic conversation with a biomechanist, is then turned into biomechanical variables which can either be measured or theoretically analysed. The key to these variables is that they are directly related to successful performance of the skill. Once understanding of the key aspects of skills and any associated progressions or drills has been understood, informed feedback can be delivered to the athletes via the coach. Integral to this process, is the communication between the biomechanist and the coach and athlete. This cycle of extracting, processing and imparting new scientifically grounded knowledge or understanding represents the whole or the actuality of the coaching-biomechanics interface. Sometimes this new knowledge may simply reinforce existing practices or it can provide new insights which inform future skill development.
The overall purpose of developing the coaching-biomechanics interface is to bridge the gap between coaching practice and the science of biomechanics. The interface aims to make training more effective and efficient, particularly for athletes who are working near to their physiological limits. More specifically, the coaching-biomechanics interface can help coaches and the coaching process in five ways. Further information can be found in chapter 8 of Jones, R.L.., Hughes, M. and Kingston, K. (in press). (Eds.), An introduction to sports coaching London: Routledge.
The computer modelling research conducted in the group is centred on the development, evaluation and application of whole body mechanical models of sports movements. An integral part of the modelling approach requires the integration of the theoretical model with laboratory-based data collections, which ensures a realistic predicted movement is produced by the model. Following customisation of the model to an individual, the forces causing a movement can be controlled and manipulated and the subsequent movement response (technique) examined.
A computer modelling approach allows examination of movement responses, which may otherwise be difficult to achieve by an individual, perhaps due to physiological constraints, and additionally reduces the potential effects of fatigue incurred in experimental, laboratory-based data collections. Key variables influencing an individual’s movement response can be isolated and modified and understanding and determination of optimum performance and/or progression of a physically less demanding movement may be achieved. Knowledge of the limits of sports performance and the risk factors of sport-related injury, gained through application of computer models of human movement, has been beneficial in informing coaching practices and in developing effective injury prevention programmes.
Sport Biomechanics Research Team
Professor Gareth Irwin
Dr Marianne J.R. Gittoes
Dr Ian Bezodis