Leaps of discovery in sports research

08 Feb, 2022
 

Imagine if analysing the way a person hopped could help predict, and ultimately improve, their sprint performance. That is what AUT PhD candidate Ant Sharp is exploring with his research, which has seen him travel to Japan to use a hi-tech 50-metre in-ground force plate track to precisely measure the ground reaction forces when athletes carry out a series of high intensity hops.

“We’ve always found that the best athletes jump the furthest but with this research we are looking at whether we can determine an athlete’s speed potential – for running, sprinting and change of direction – and how we can feed these findings into training for improved performance.”

Ant is analysing the data he collected on 47 athletes, which includes detailed kinematic data on flight and ground contact times, captured using smartphone technology.

As the current head of women’s high performance at New Zealand Cricket, Ant already has a keen understanding of sports performance but undertaking a PhD is a long-held ‘life goal’.

New Zealand Cricket has a longstanding relationship with AUT and Ant has previously worked on numerous projects and training programmes with his supervisor Professor John Cronin, a globally respected expert in strength and conditioning.

“AUT is internationally recognised as a leader in sports science and especially in the field of strength and conditioning,” says Ant. “People come from all over the world to study here, so we are really lucky to have it on our doorstep.”

AUT group leader for sports technology research Jono Neville says sports technology is an exciting field to work in, for both research and commercial opportunities.

“Sports tech is about creating technology that can help us to better understand different aspects of sport or give us insights into how we can achieve better performance. There are also massive opportunities around how we can use applied technologies to prevent injuries and improve rehab outcomes too.”

For her Master of Sport, Exercise and Health research, AUT student Chloe Ryan has teamed up with the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic netball team to look at how wearable resistance on different parts of the body impacts an athlete’s ‘change of direction’ performance.

To capture the data Chloe is using a combination of timing lights and hi-tech Plantiga insoles sensors to track and analyse athlete movement.

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