Taking the guesswork out of managing training load in gymnastics : using inertial measurement units to develop a load catalogue for men's and woman's artistic gymnastics

  • Rhiannon Campbell

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    Artistic gymnastics is a sport that reports high overuse injury rates, due to repetitive high impact loads that occur throughout training. Overuse injuries could be reduced with adequate monitoring and prescription of training. The aim of this thesis was to develop a method to quantify peak segmental impact loading and to establish a normative training load catalogue for artistic gymnastics.
    This research covered three main areas: (i) identification of the injury problem in gymnastics through a systematic review, (ii) development of a reliable method to measure IMU segmental loading in gymnastics, and (iii) implementation of IMU methods into the daily training environment. The first research area consisted of a systematic review on gymnastics injury epidemiology, which revealed high injury rates across all competitive levels. Gymnasts are more commonly injured while training on the floor apparatus and experience high rates of overuse injuries.
    The second research area contains three experimental method studies that determined the optimal data analysis procedure for IMU data (signal filtering), the reliability of the IMUs and compared IMU results (peak resultant acceleration [PRA]) to force plate results (peak resultant ground reaction force [PRGRF]). Sixteen competitive artistic gymnasts (male, n= 8; female, n= 8) performed seven gymnastics skills onto a force plate while wearing four IMUs (upper back, lower back, forearm, and tibia). Results indicated that IMU data filtered with a fourth-order zero-lag Butterworth filter with an 85 Hz cut-off frequency is optimal for gymnastic-style impact activities. Reliability of PRA during ground contact for all skills was assessed for raw and optimally filtered acceleration data (Butterworth filter with 85 Hz cut-off). Results indicated that IMU PRA measures demonstrated very good inter-trial reliability, however filtered signals improved reliability statistics for five variables compared to raw. PRA results were all significantly greater than PRGRF during gymnastics skills at all IMU locations, with only trivial to moderate relationships to PRGRF observed. IMU PRA cannot not accurately estimate PRGRF during gymnastics-style landings, however IMUs could distinguish between high and low loading skills.
    The third research area contains two research studies which implemented the IMU methods within a gymnastics training environment. These studies investigated whole-body loading associated with foundation floor tumbling sequences and upper limb symmetry and cumulative loading during vaulting sessions. Fourteen sub-elite artistic gymnasts (male, n= 9; female, n= 5) performed eight tumbling skills and sequences while wearing four IMUs (upper back, lower back, leading forearm, and leading tibia). The PRA of forearm and tibia IMUs recorded significantly greater loading than the upper and lower back IMUs for all ground contacts. Some foundation tumbling skills exposed gymnasts to higher levels of loading when practiced separately compared to when performed as part of a tumbling sequence and vice versa. In the final study, twelve advanced-level artistic gymnasts (female, n= 6; male, n= 6) wore bilateral forearm-mounted IMUs while completing their vault training sessions. Leading and non-leading forearm PRA were calculated, and no relationship between forearm loading and leading/non-leading limbs was identified. Forearm symmetry and cumulative loading were different for each gymnast and highlights that individual load analysis in gymnastics is paramount.
    Overall, this thesis presents IMU methods to measure whole-body segment loading in gymnastics training and describes a normative training load catalogue of common floor and vaulting skills. This research highlights that IMUs can be implemented into a training environment to measure limb segment loading, limb symmetry, and track cumulative loading across multiple apparatuses and matted surfaces.
    Date of Award2021
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorWayne Spratford (Supervisor) & Nick Ball (Supervisor)

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