Sprint tech hauls coaches closer to fair analysis

Standardised testing for one of sport’s most prized commodities – speed – is a step closer thanks to a research partnership between Australian Catholic University and performance measurement technology company Swift Performance.

A study led by Dr Jonathon Weakley from ACU’s Sports Performance, Recovery, Injury and New Technologies (SPRINT) Research Centre found data collected from five independent sprint timing methods varied by as much as 10 per cent over 40 metres.

The wild variance in testing outcomes highlighted the enormous difficulty faced by coaches of all sports as they compare velocity and acceleration.

“If we applied some of the start systems to Usain Bolt at his peak, the 100m sprint world record would likely be sub-nine seconds, not 9.58,” Dr Weakley said.

With player recruitment often influenced by sprint testing and speed, professional careers can pivot on tenths of a second.

“Methods vary from device to device and club to club. What we found was that, without standardised protocols, sprint outcomes can’t be compared,” Dr Weakley said.

Vastly different outcomes in sprint performances have been attributed in literature to the timing method rather than athlete ability.

To quantify this disparity, Dr Weakley and the research team analysed the sprint performances of 12 team sport athletes for 10 repetitions.

The project used five independent timing methods to collect data, with the study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

The study found most sprint timing methods only begin timing once the athlete is well into their acceleration phase and often misses up to 50 per cent of their acceleration. However, Swift Performance’s MOVE device, which integrates ultrasonic and laser technology to help accurately determine when an athlete begins moving, could accurately detect and trigger starts after seven centimetres of movement.

“This allows coaches and athletes to have a better understanding of sprint performance as the entire sprint is captured and provides an improved interpretation of accelerative capacity,” Dr Weakley said.

Media Contact: Damien Stannard, 0484387349, damien.stannard@acu.edu.au


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