Evidence for the Spotting Hypothesis in Gymnasts

in Motor Control
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The goal of this study was to investigate the visual spotting hypothesis in 10 experts and 10 apprentices as they perform back aerial somersaults from a standing position with no preparatory jumps (short flight duration condition) and after some preparatory jumps with a flight time of 1s (long flight duration condition). Differences in gaze behavior and kinematics were expected between experts and apprentices and between experimental conditions. Gaze behavior was measured using a portable and wireless eye-tracking system in combination with a movement-analysis system. Experts exhibited a smaller landing deviation from the middle of the trampoline bed than apprentices. Experts showed higher fixation ratios during the take-off and flight phase. Experts exhibited no blinks in any of the somersaults in both conditions, whereas apprentices showed significant blink ratios in both experimental conditions. The findings suggest that gymnasts can use visual spotting during the back aerial somersault, even when the time of flight is delimited. We conclude that knowledge about gaze–movement relationships may help coaches develop specific training programs in the learning process of the back aerial somersault.

Heinen is with the German Sport University Cologne, Institute of Psychology, Am Sportpark Müngersdorf, Cologne, Germany.

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