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In the present study, the limits of human catching behavior were challenged to investigate quantitative and qualitative adaptations of the catching movement when performing under varying ball speeds, implying minor as well as severe temporal constraints. Nine male participants caught balls approaching at speeds ranging from 8.5 to 19.7 m/s with their preferred hand. Although a decrease in catching performance was undeniable, several quantitative adaptations provided the catcher with extra time and allowed to compensate the decrease in spatial accuracy with increasing speed. More importantly, changes in the coordination between hand, elbow, and shoulder emerged with increasing movement velocity. More demanding temporal constraints lead to a shift from relatively independent activity of each joint towards a mode in which several joints act as one unit. This reorganization of the coordination pattern of the catch is discussed in the context of Bernstein’s degrees of freedom problem.
Mazyn and Lenoir are with the Dept of Movement and Sports Sciences, Ghent University, Belgium. Montagne is with the Faculté des Sciences du Sport, Université de la Méditerranée, France. Savelsbergh is with the Faculty of Human Movement Sciences, Free University Amsterdam, the Netherlands and the Dept of Exercise and Sport Sciences, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK.