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Beckett leads the way in athletics research

Researchers from Leeds Beckett University have revealed their findings after carrying out the biggest sports research project of its kind in the world.

IAAF champs

A 40-strong team from the university’s Carnegie School of Sport conducted the largest biomechanics research project ever in athletics during last year’s IAAF World Championships in London.

The team, made up of students, technical staff and academics, was able to capture biomechanical data on many of the world’s elite athletes, including Jamaican sprint king Usain Bolt and Sir Mo Farah, the UK’s most successful long distance runner of all time.

Interim reports from the project were delivered towards the end of last year, but the team have now unveiled their findings in full at the IAAF World U20 Championships in Tampere, Finland. The aim of the project was to support athletes and coaches in optimisation and improvement of their training and competition performance.

Dr Athanassios Bissas, a leading researcher and international expert on the biomechanics of sports performance, led the Carnegie School of Sport research team.

Speaking about the research, he said: “We would like to thank the IAAF for trusting us with this once in a lifetime opportunity. Our aim was to capture everything during the championships and I believe we achieved it. We used over 40

HD cameras and collected 2.9 TB of data. We produced 38 reports, over 1,500 pages of information. I believe we made history with this project.”

Sebastian Coe, the IAAF President said: “Biomechanics are crucial to the development of athletes where milliseconds and millimetres can make the difference between qualifying for a final, or not, and winning a medal, or not. They enable athletes and coaches to perfect performances, tweak technique and more importantly understand, manage and mitigate injury,

“I would like to end by saying a huge thank you to our Development Team, to Leeds Beckett University and to all the coaches that have contributed to the reports by analysing the data and providing expert opinions in each of the reports.”

A number of IAAF-backed biomechanics research projects have been carried out at previous major championships, but the project undertaken in London in 2017 was bigger and more in-depth than any before. A full biomechanical analysis of all the finalists was conducted for the following events: 100m, 200m, 400m, 10,000m, marathon, 3,000m steeplechase, 100m/110m hurdles, 4x100m, high jump, pole vault, long jump, triple jump, shot put, discus, hammer and javelin.

In the sprinting events, video footage was analysed to produce 3D biomechanical data on stride length, stride frequency, ground contact times, joint angles and velocities and other important variables.The analysis of the distance events included changes in fatigue in the 10,000m, foot-strike patterns in the marathon and water-jump hurdling techniques in the steeplechase.

The throws analysis focused on velocities at various stages of the throw, release angles, release height, segmental coordination and other key variables.

Dr Brian Hanley, a world-leading expert in long distance running and race walking who designed and implemented the motion analysis calibration procedures for the project said: “The scale of this project meant that we had to be innovative in ensuring we had a system that could quickly but accurately measure the athletes’ movements.

"The Learning Support team was responsible for the construction of a large volume with multiple reference points whose size and shape could be converted to be movable around the track, that could reach as high as the pole vault bar, or be as wide as the water jump pit. We had a well-trained team to construct and carry the frame who worked tirelessly to provide the crucial foundation that the camera footage built on.”

The Leeds Beckett research team’s work in London led to an invitation from the IAAF to conduct more data capture and analysis at this year’s World Indoor Championships in Birmingham.
The findings from Birmingham will be published this autumn.

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