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Accelerometer peak impact accelerations are being used to measure player physical demands in contact sports. However, their accuracy to do so has not been ascertained.
To compare peak-impact-acceleration data from an accelerometer contained in a wearable tracking device with a 3-dimensional motion-analysis (MA) system during tackling and bumping.
Twenty-five semielite rugby athletes wore a tracking device containing a 100-Hz triaxial accelerometer (MinimaxX S4, Catapult Innovations, Australia). A single retroreflective marker was attached to the device, with its position recorded by a 12-camera MA system during 3 physical-collision tasks (tackle bag, bump pad, and tackle drill; N = 625). The accuracy, effect size, agreement, precision, and relative errors for each comparison were obtained as measures of accelerometer validity.
Physical-collision peak impact accelerations recorded by the accelerometer overestimated (mean bias 0.60 g) those recorded by the MA system (P < .01). Filtering the raw data at a 20-Hz cutoff improved the accelerometer’s relationship with MA data (mean bias 0.01 g; P > .05). When considering the data in 9 magnitude bands, the strongest relationship with the MA system was found in the 3.0-g or less band, and the precision of the accelerometer tended to reduce as the magnitude of impact acceleration increased. Of the 3 movements performed, the tackle-bag task displayed the greatest validity with MA.
The findings indicate that the MinimaxX S4 accelerometer can accurately measure physical-collision peak impact accelerations when data are filtered at a 20-Hz cutoff frequency. As a result, accelerometers may be useful to measure physical collisions in contact sports.
Wundersitz, Gastin, and Robertson are with the Centre for Exercise and Sport Science, Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia. Netto is with the School of Physiotherapy and Exercise Science, Curtin University, Perth, Australia.