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Optimized computer simulation, using a mathematical model of a diver, was employed to gain insight into the primary mechanical factors responsible for producing height and rotation in dives from the reverse group. The performance variable optimized was the total angular displacement of the diver as measured from last contact to the point where the diver's mass center passed the level of the springboard or platform. The times of onset, and lengths of activation for the joint torque actuators, were used as the control variables for the optimization process. The results of the platform simulation indicated that the magnitude of the hip torque was approximately twice that generated by the knee joint during the early extension phase of the takeoff. Most of the knee extension for the simulation model coincided with the period of reduced hip torque during the later phase of takeoff, suggesting that the knee torque served mainly to stabilize the lower limbs so that the force from the powerful hip extension could be delivered through to the platform. Maintaining a forward tilt of the lower legs (~50° from the horizontal) during hip and knee extension appeared to be paramount for successful reverse somersaults. Although the movement pattern exhibited by the springboard model was limited by the torque activation strategy employed, the results provided insight into the timing of knee extension. Peak knee extension torque was generated just prior to maximum springboard depression, allowing the diver's muscular efforts to be exerted against a stiffer board. It was also apparent that the diver must maintain an anatomically strong knee position (~140°) at maximum depression to resist the large upward force being exerted by the springboard against the diver's feet. The optimization process suggested that, as the number of reverse somersaults increases, both the angle of the lower legs with respect to the springboard and the angle of knee extension at completion of takeoff should decrease.
College of Kinesiology, Univ. of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK, Canada S7N 5C2
Professor Emerita, Univ. of Western Ontario, London, ON, Canada N6A 3K7.