HOW BIOMECHANICAL RESEARCH CAN HELP THE COACH

  • P. Luhtanen

Abstract

INTRODUCTION This presentation intends to provide a perspective on different sports that are based upon scientific studies and attempts to apply scientific information to practical considerations important to success in sports. The coach and scientist often have the same general objectives of improving sports performance, but their approach can be different. The sport scientists are concerned with the validity of the experimental desigh used, methodology employed and statistical analysis. The coaches are less concerned how or why certain types of information are obtained as long they are convinced that the results are valid and meaningful. When the scientists are arguing the smallest details of the results the coaches are looking more yes or no answer concerning questions of training consequences. The questions in the discussions between athlete, coach and scientist are often of the form: What is done? How is it done Why does it work? The answers to What? How? and Why? are important to the athlete, coach and scientist, respectively. FUNDAMENTAL RESEARCH - APPLIED RESEARCH Fundamental research in biomechanics includes methods of data collection and data processing as well as basic research for human movement. Fundamental areas such as the tracking of human movement or the mechanics of skeletal muscle can enable specific applied research to be undertaken in particular sports. Applied research provides the basis for interpreting the results and thereby makes possible support services to sports. The understanding gained from applied research is a prime resource for coach education. In order to identlfy key areas for applied research in sports biomechanics, those sports primarily depend upon technique have been categorised as well suited to biomechanical analysis. However the role of interdisciplinary research is often important. These research approaches have been identified to enable applied studies to be carried out which wauld lead to technique modifications for improved performance. EXPERIMENTAL - THEORETICAL APPROACH One method of seeking answers to such questions is to use an experimental approach. Often the experiment is invisible to the athlete. By obtaining movement data on an individual athlete it may be possible to identlfy those elements of technique which are associated with the better performances. This may indicate how the individual can improve personal performance. By obtaining data on a number of athletes and identlfying the characteristics . of better athletes, it may be possible to gain insight into how training should be structured.Another method of investigation is the theoretical approach. This takes the form of idealisation of the activity using a theoretical model. Hypothetical data is generated by using the model in specified situations. A theoretical model may also be able to provide a general description of movement which can lead to a more complete understanding than that provided by a number of particular examples. EXPERIMENTAL - THEORETICAL MODELLING Although the experimental and theoretical approaches appear to be quite different in nature they are both an integral part of scientific method. Initially a scientific investigation will probably take the form of a descriptive study which merely records what happens. The data may suggest a possible theory. Such a theory may be used to predict the outcome in a given situation. An experiment can then be conducted to determine the actual outcome. A comparison of theoretical with experimental outcomes can the establish the accuracy with which the theory models the activity. This will indicate the level of confidence that can be given to theoretical predictions and may suggest how the theory can be modified. Sports biomechanics should be a balanced mix of experimental and theoretical modelling if a realistic understanding has been achieved. Both experiment and theory pose their own problems in sports biomechanics research. PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS Practical biomechanical and multidisciplinary implications will be presented using the methods and results of various research projects conducted in the Finnish Research Institute for Olympic Sports in co-operation with the top level coaches.