• Ewald M. Hennig
Keywords: Force, Pressure, Acceleration, Transducers, Product Testing


Introduction: Mechanical loads on the human body are necessary to stimulate bone growth, to maintain bone integrity, and to strengthen the skeletal musculature. However, excessive forces, repetitive shock and high pressures have been identified as contributors to traumatic and overuse injuries. For events of short duration, cinematographic techniques are normally not sufficient to estimate the forces and accelerations experienced by the body's center of mass (CoM) or any one of its parts. Therefore, mechanical sensors are necessary to register forces, accelerations and pressure distributions that occur during sports activities. This methodological overview concentrates on technological aspects and the application of force, pressure and acceleration measurements. Methods: In the field of biomechanics piezoelectric and strain gage force platforms are commonly used for the determination of ground reaction forces. Properly mounted, these measuring devices provide high accuracy and a good frequency response. Desirable transducer characteristics for biomechanical applications may differ from characteristics advantageous for engineering usage. Measurement of pressure during sitting or lying on a bed requires a soft and pliable transducer mat that will adapt to the shape of the human body. However, such a transducer will not show good technical specifications. In recent years pressure distribution sensors have been developed using conductive paint as well as capacitive and piezoelectric transducers. Compared to force platforms, pressure distribution sensors allow a much more detailed analysis of the mechanical interaction of the human body with the ground. Pressure devices generally demonstrate reduced accuracy and lower frequency responses as compared to traditional force platforms. Strain gage, inductive, and piezoelectric technologies are also applied for the construction of accelerometers. They are important for the measurements of shock and vibrations at various parts of the body. Skin motion is a major problem for acceleration measurements in biomechanics, and care should be taken to minimize these artifacts. Applications: The use and the limitations of ground reaction force measurements will be demonstrated for locomotor and other athletic activities. In-shoe pressure distribution techniques have proven valuable in product testing of athletic footwear. Differences between shoes can easily be detected and the aging of material with use can be tested. The substantial influence of skin motion on acceleration measurements will be demonstrated, and methods will be suggested to reduce these skin artifacts. Running and tennis will be chosen as examples to demonstrate the use of acceleration measurements.