Developing an understanding of how to make better movements will decrease risk of injury while increasing longevity of performance at a higher level, says Keke Lyles, Director of Fitness and Recreation at The Bridges at Rancho Santa Fe (Calif.).
By Keke Lyles, Director of Fitness and Recreation, The Bridges at Rancho Santa Fe (Calif.)
The advancement of sport technology has opened doors in understanding biomechanics at a deeper level than ever before. Collecting and interpreting data from common movements in various sports, including golf, is not only useful for the development of an individual’s skill, but also has direct application into biomechanics in everyday life.
Specifically, motion-capture technology has the potential to improve an individual’s quality of life by developing an understanding of how to make better movements to decrease risk of injury, as well as to increase longevity of performance at a higher level.
There are four main types of motion-capture technology that have the ability to analyze a golf swing, as well as an individual’s biomechanics. These four categories are basic film, inertial systems, electromagnetic (EM) systems, and optical systems.
Basic film isn’t so basic these days. With advances in iPhone and computer processing, there are some very good applications that can capture a golf swing and gather insight into it. Some of the more popular applications include SwingProfile, V1 Golf, iSwing, and Swing Plane. The key function in these applications is the ability to capture 30 frames per second, which the user can then view and mark up. This is an inexpensive, yet very effective way to capture any swing on video.
More advanced film systems set up higher-end cameras and connect into a computer. One such product is Swing Catalyst. Swing Catalyst has a foot pressure or force plate, which tracks ground-reaction forces or, more simply put, how the person is utilizing the ground to help them produce their movement.
The next category of motion-capture technology is inertial sensors, using a variety of old-school technology, such as accelerometers, magnetometers and gyroscopes. These sensors are usually placed on key body parts such as the hand, torso and pelvis. All of the information is then processed through the computer, and the result is a nice representation of an individual’s body in space and how it is moving.
An example of a company that utilizes this type of technology is K-Vest. These sensors will produce three degrees of freedom, which can be more easily understood as three planes of movement. While specific joint range of motion is not as accurate, kinematic sequencing—the order in which body parts begin to move first and which move last—can be used with these sensors.
As it relates to golf, research shows that most amateur golfers will typically begin the movement at the top of their swing with their arms, then move their torso or pelvis to start the downswing. However, tour pros and other very low-handicap golfers start the downswing with their pelvis and move up, with the arms moving last. This difference in movement is a very efficient way to produce rotational power.
Electromagnetic systems are also an effective form of motion-capture technology. Similar to the inertial sensors, the individual places small trackers on key body parts. However, with EM systems, there is also a small device that transmits an electromagnetic field, which tracks the sensors at a very precise level.
The advantage with this type of technology is the level of precise data collected to track and understand body positions in space. The drawback, however, is that a significant amount of wires are required to connect to the sensors being worn.
Motion-capture technology via optical systems is a space in the tech world that is still exploding. What started a few years back with a handful of cameras tracking small markers placed on the body is now turning into one or two iPhones running applications with artificial intelligence to replace the markers.
GEARs Sports has become the go-to company in golf in this area. The ease of use and amount of data on reports you can gather is simply top-notch, and the price point remains a bargain, especially compared to similar companies based throughout the world. Most major golf manufacturers either have or have used GEARs in their facility to gain valuable insight into golf club dynamics in their never-ending quest for research and development.
The key to all of this technology is to gain valuable objective data that allows anyone interested in utilizing detailed information in the area of biomechanics to improve movements—whether it be an instructor in golf or fitness, a physical therapist or performance coach. These various forms of motion-capture technology can provide an effective learning platform for users to receive visual feedback as they begin to learn the proper way to move. A small investment of capital, as well as training the right personnel on how to use these types of systems, can help to differentiate any club or resort property.
Keke Lyles is recognized as a leader in human performance, with experience with professional athletes and Navy Special Warfare operators. He now leads fitness initiatives at The Bridges at Rancho Santa Fe.