Posted in biology, electronic imaging and displays

Studying the art of ice skating

From the New York Times:

Light-reflective dots attached to Emma Phibbs allowed a sophisticated camera system to capture her movement and display it on a monitor at the University of Delaware
Light-reflective dots attached to Emma Phibbs allowed a sophisticated camera system to capture her movement and display it on a monitor at the University of Delaware

Melissa Bulanhagui is a highly ranked figure skater, but two years ago her right ankle failed her. She sprained it twice and tore a ligament, each time during one of her favorite jumps, the triple lutz.

Other skaters have suffered similar injuries, and now science is studying why, aiming to help skaters meet the sport’s physical challenges without sacrificing their health.

For one study, Ms. Bulanhagui (pronounced BULL-en-hayg-ee), 18, and other skaters tape to their shins devices called tibial accelerometers, which measure the force of the impact when skaters land a jump.

“A lot of the impacts are really high, 90 to 100 G’s,” said Kat Arbour, a skater turned graduate researcher at the University of Delaware. “If you hit your head that hard, I don’t think you’d survive.”

But she said study results suggested that the issue was not jumping itself, but how well jumps were executed. “If someone is really proficient, they seem to be able to modify their technique to decrease the impact, use muscles differently to absorb that shock,” she said.

The accelerometer study is part of a flowering of research on safety and performance. And it is no coincidence that such research is growing at a time when figure skating, a year-round pursuit for competitive skaters, emphasizes athleticism and endurance more than ever before.

Adjustments to international judging guidelines in 2003 made skating “much more physically and mentally challenging,” said Mitch Moyer, senior director of athlete high performance for United States Figure Skating, which is sponsoring the accelerometer study and others. Each skill in a performance now receives specific points, requiring more focus. And skaters no longer have an incentive to perform all jumps early in a program before they tire — now, jumps done later earn extra points.

Read full article and see video at the New York Times.

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Author:

Beth Kelley is an applied & digital anthropologist with an overall interest in how people engage with and are impacted by their environments and vice versa. This has manifested itself in many ways, by looking at creativity, playful spaces and environmental enrichment, sustainability, design research, and integrative and collaborative models of learning such as through play and hands-on learning.