Posts about Sports

Engineering A Golf Swing

Golf secret not all in the wrists

After decades of research, the world may be closer to the perfect golf swing. University of Surrey engineer Robin Sharp has found the key is not in using full power from the start, but by building up to it quickly.

Surprisingly, the wrists don’t play a critical role in the swing’s outcome, according to the new model. The analysis also shows that while bigger golfers might hit further, it’s not by much. Any golfer will tell you that the idea of swinging harder to hit farther is not as straightforward as it might seem; the new results indicate that how – and when – the power develops is the key to distance.

Prof Sharp used a computer model first to fit to the swing styles of three professionals whose swings were measured with high-speed photography in 1968: Bernard Hunt, Geoffrey Hunt and Guy Wolstenholme.

The model showed that the club-head speed, and thus drive distance, of these professionals could have been improved by increasing the torque quickly to the maximum value and maintaining it throughout the rest of the swing. It’s a delicate balance, however, and Sunday duffers may find it hard to implement Prof Sharp’s prescription.

The application of science to sports is an interesting area. Previous posts: Science of the High JumpSports Engineering @ MITPhysicist Swimming RevolutionBaseball Pitch Designed in the Lab

NFL Stars no Match for Bacteria

NFL stars no match for bacteria

The problem came to the forefront last week with Cleveland Browns player Kellen Winslow, who recently had his second staph infection. He is reportedly the sixth player to acquire staph among the Browns in five years.

Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts was revealed to have a staph infection, the Indianapolis Star reported Friday. University of North Carolina-Asheville fans also recently learned that Kenny George, the 7-foot-7 center on the basketball team, had a staph infection complication that led to part of his foot being amputated. It’s unclear how these high-profile athletes acquired their infections, but locker rooms have been found to habor staph bacteria in previous outbreaks.

A study on the St. Louis Rams published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2003 found that during the 2003 football season, there were eight MRSA infections among five of the 58 Rams players.

Related: CDC Urges Increased Effort to Reduce Drug-Resistant InfectionsAntimicrobial Wipes Often Spread BacteriaTreadmill Desks

University Pay Rates

academic salary chart

Interesting chart from “Piled Higher and Deeper” by Jorge Cham showing median salaries for various university employees: grad students $17,784; Tenured professors ~$90,000; Football coaches: $1,057,305.

Related: Ninja ProfessorsS&P 500 CEOs are Engineering Graduates (and they make even more than football coaches)High Pay for Engineering Graduates (July 2007)Open Access Legislation 25 provosts from top universities

The Glove – Engineering Coolness

photo of The Glove - core control

Cool invention helps tired players bounce back

The device, called the Glove and invented by two Stanford biologists, is used by the Niners during games and at practice for players’ health. But its applications are far broader: from treating stroke and heart attack victims to allowing soldiers to remain in the field longer under intense heat.

It’s also a proven athletic performance enhancer – billed as better than steroids without any ill effects.

“We use the Glove primarily for health reasons,” said Dan Garza, the 49ers’ medical director. “But outside of sports, it has potential for a lot of exciting things. This technology is a much more effective way of cooling the core temperature than what we would typically do – misting, fanning, cold towels, fluids.”

The Glove works by cooling the body from inside out, rather than conventional approaches that cool from outside in. The device creates an airtight seal around the wrist, pulls blood into the palm of the hand and cools it before returning it to the heart and to overheated muscles and organs. The palm is the ideal place for rapid cooling because blood flow increases to the hands (and feet and face) as body temperature rises.

“These are natural mammalian radiators,” said Dennis Grahn, who invented the device with Stanford colleague Craig Heller.

Cool, you can buy your own for only $2,000 🙂 (The Glove used to be called Core Control) High resolution image. Related: Research on Reducing Hamstring InjuriesThe Science of the Football SwerveRandomization in Sportsposts on science and athletics

Dolphin Kick Gives Swimmers Edge

photo of Michael Phelps diving

Dolphin Kick Gives Swimmers Edge

Rajat Mittal, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the George Washington University, was studying dolphins for the U.S. Navy five years ago. “We were asked to understand how fish swim so efficiently,” Mittal says, “and it seemed like a natural extension to apply this to human swimming.”

They decided to “essentially compare these swimmers to the dolphin, assuming that the dolphin is the ultimate swimmer,” Mittal says. “And the thing that we found is that Michael [Phelps] is able to use his body in a way that is very, very different from the other athletes, and also seems to be much closer to dolphins than we have seen for any other swimmer.”

The dolphin kick first hit Olympic swimming big-time 20 years ago, after Harvard backstroker David Berkoff figured out something fundamental. “It seemed pretty obvious to me that kicking underwater seemed to be a lot faster than swimming on the surface,” Berkoff says.

That’s because there’s turbulence and air on the surface of the water, and they create resistance. The “Berkoff Blastoff,” as it was called, was used at the start and after turns, with long stretches of that underwater undulating kick.

Follow the link for a video of Michael Phelps demonstrating the technique and more interesting details. Photo by A. Dawson shows Michael Phelps diving into the water at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials.

Related: Science of the High JumpSports EngineeringPhysicist Swimming RevolutionSwimming Robot Aids Researchers

Science Based Triathlete

The Making of a Olympian by Arianne Cohen

In a break with training orthodoxy, Potts and his coach have created a regimen called feedback training in which the training plan is reassessed every 24 hours based on the constant monitoring of three variables: wattage (the power Potts’s body produces), cadence (the tempo of his arm and leg movements) and heart rate. No lap times. No mileage. No grand training schedules planned months in advance. Only raw biological data. “My coach and I talk a lot about engines,” Potts says. “In auto racing, you want to put out the highest amount of power with the least amount of fuel. We do the same thing. My heart and lungs are my engine. The goal is to always increase the efficiency of the engine.”

Every night, Doane analyzes his athlete’s response to the day’s training. He’s looking for the best way to expand Potts’s aerobic capacity, power output and lactate threshold, without overtraining. If Doane sees that Potts’s heartbeat has been sluggish—say, beating 140 times per minute while Potts is trying to produce 410 watts—that means his body is struggling to recover from earlier training, so he’ll dial back the intensity of his workouts. If, on the other hand, his heart rate stays in the sweet spot around 165 while he churns through a series of 360- to 400-watt intervals, that means he’s fully recovered and ready to be pushed again. “We’ve created a feedback loop,” Doane says. In other words, Doane subjects Potts to a careful dose of punishment, and Potts’s body tells Doane, through empirical data, what he needs to do next.

Nice article. As it mentions really almost all Olympic athletes today use a great deal of science in their training.

Related: Baseball Pitch Designed in the LabEngineering Sports at MITRandomization in Sports

Physicist Swimming Revolution

A Revolution That Began With a Kick by Amy Shipley:

The answer, they say, cannot lie solely in the latest high-tech swimsuits introduced amid a swirl of controversy this winter, because the world-record smashing began at last year’s world championships — long before the newest of the newfangled apparel came out.

Swimmers, coaches and scientists say it is impossible to pinpoint one explanation. They cite many contributing factors, ranging from professional training groups that have sprouted across the United States to greater access to underwater cameras and other advanced technology.

But some say the most significant breakthrough has been a revival of a swimming maneuver developed more than 70 years ago by one of the physicists who worked on the atomic bomb.

Though utilized for decades, the underwater dolphin kick had not been fully exploited by the swimming mainstream until Olympic megastar Michael Phelps and a few other stars began polishing it — and crushing other swimmers with it — in recent years.

Very interesting and another example of how good ideas are often ignored for a long time.

The underwater dolphin kick attracted the interest of swimming innovators as early as the 1930s. The late Volney C. Wilson explored its possibilities before diving into later work on nuclear fission and the atomic bomb, according to David Schrader, a research professor at Marquette University who is Wilson’s biographer.

Schrader said Wilson, an alternate on the 1932 Olympic water polo team who studied fish propulsion at a Chicago aquarium, claimed to have shown the kick to Johnny Weissmuller, a training mate at the Illinois Athletic Club. “Weissmuller reproduced it perfectly, but was not impressed by it,” said Schrader in a phone interview, recalling a conversation with Wilson.

One of the first swimmers to turn heads with the underwater dolphin kick was David Berkoff, a Harvard graduate who became known for the “Berkoff Blastoff.” In 1988, Berkoff set several world records in the 100 backstroke by dolphin-kicking for 35 meters underwater at the start of the race.

Which goes to show you that you can gain advantages just by using the information that is available – your own innovation is not the only way to get ahead. Just doing a better job of adapting what others learn to your challenges can be very rewarding.

Related: Randomization in SportsBaseball Pitch Designed in the LabScience of the High Jump