Why athletes get injured

July 28, 2004

SOME sportspeople are more prone to injury than others, despite being fully fit. A new mathematical model of the body shows that these athletes rely on a fixed combination of movements that they cannot easily modify. The discovery might help in spotting injury-prone athletes early on. Sports injuries are extremely difficult to study because of the huge range of body movements involved; the complex shape of the bones, cartilage and muscle tissue; and the difficulty in determining how the body handles large forces. Traditional models of the body use differential equations, and tracking the motion of just one or two joints requires tremendous computer power. Add more joints to the mix, and the calculations become fiendishly difficult even for a powerful computer.

Now mathematicians Rudi Penne of the Karel de Grote School in Antwerp, Belgium, and Henri Laurie of the University of Cape Town in South Africa, have found a way to simplify analysis of the body's movement by using a technique called projective geometry. This is a way of studying the relationship between two lines in terms of their orientation, but without having to deal with their coordinates. Using projective geometry, Penne and Laurie modelled the actions of cricket bowlers, who are notorious for their frequent injuries. After making some assumptions about a bowler's action- for instance, they ignored any rotations of the wrist and elbow- the researchers modelled all the ways in which joint movements could be combined to deliver a cricket ball. They found that most combinations allowed the bowler to make small adjustments to the action, but that a few combinations gave no room for manoeuvre. The researchers call this phenomenon "reduced redundancy" and say that it may play a special role in sports injuries. Many injuries begin as small problems such as a micro-tear or fracture that becomes larger with repeated action. A bowler's ability to modify his action while remaining effective avoids aggravating any injuries.

But if any change in movement is not possible because of the requirements of a bowler's action, the micro injury is much more likely to become serious (www.arxiv.org/q-bio.QM/0406024). The mathematicians tested their idea on two bowlers, one of whom is prone to injury. Their study showed that a critical component of his action had reduced redundancy while the other bowler's action did not. "This may help us make an early diagnosis of injury-prone cricketers," Laurie says. "It is an elegant approach which has a lot of appeal, but considerably more work is needed to apply it more generally," says Kit Vaughan, a biomedical engineer at the University of Cape Town. Penne and Laurie now hope to test their ideas on a larger group of cricketers and to model other sporting actions such as the way footballers take free kicks or how rugby union players scrummage.
-end-
Reported by: Justin Mullins

This article appears in New Scientist issue: 31 July 2004

PLEASE MENTION NEW SCIENTIST AS THE SOURCE OF THIS STORY AND, IF PUBLISHING ONLINE, PLEASE CARRY A HYPERLINK TO: http://www.newscientist.com

"These articles are posted on this site to give advance access to other authorised media who may wish to quote extracts as part of fair dealing with this copyrighted material. Full attribution is required, and if publishing online a link to www.newscientist.com is also required. Advance permission is required before any and every reproduction of each article in full - please contact celia.thomas@rbi.co.uk. Please note that all material is copyright of Reed Business Information Limited and we reserve the right to take such action as we consider appropriate to protect such copyright."

New Scientist

Related Sports Injuries Articles from Brightsurf:

Head and neck injuries make up nearly 28% of all electric scooter accident injuries
A Henry Ford study is sounding the alarm on the rise of electric scooter injuries, and particularly head and neck injuries, since the 2017 introduction of e-scooter rideshare programs in urban centers.

Girls benefit from doing sports
Extracurricular sport in middle childhood diminishes subsequent ADHD symptoms in girls, but not in boys, a new study suggests.

Managing pain after sports medicine surgery
A Henry Ford Hospital study published in the Journal of Arthroscopic and Related Surgery has found that patients who underwent knee surgery and other types of sports medicine procedures could manage their pain without opioids or a minimal dosage.

Botox is an effective treatment for some common sports injuries, new research suggests
While botulinum toxin is commonly known as a cosmetic treatment for facial lines and wrinkles, a growing body of evidence suggests that 'Botox' can also be an effective treatment for certain sports injuries and chronic pain conditions, according to a review in the June issue of Current Sports Medicine Reports, official journal of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

Play sports for a healthier brain
There have been many headlines in recent years about the potentially negative impacts contact sports can have on athletes' brains.

Sticking to sports can help kids adjust
By participating in organized physical activity from the age of 6, children will have less risk of emotional difficulties by the time they're 12, a new Canadian study finds.

Can recreational sports really make you a better student?
A new Michigan State University study adds to growing evidence that participating in recreational sports not only can help improve grades while attending college, but it also can help students return for another year.

How team sports change a child's brain
Adult depression has long been associated with shrinkage of the hippocampus, a brain region that plays an important role in memory and response to stress.

Researchers suggest balanced reporting of sports head injuries
A group of more than 60 leading international neuroscientists, including Mark Herceg, Ph.D., a neuropsychologist at Northwell Health's Phelps Hospital in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y., and a member of The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, published a correspondence today in The Lancet Neurology, asking for balance when reporting on sports-related injury chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

How is big data impacting sports analytics?
Sports in all its forms, from Major League Baseball to Fantasy Football is driven by and produces huge amounts of data, and advanced data mining and machine learning techniques are now having a major impact on sports data analytics.

Read More: Sports Injuries News and Sports Injuries Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.