Aerial Somersault Performance under Three Visual Conditions

in Motor Control

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Jan M. Hondzinski
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Warren G. Darling
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Experiments were designed to examine the visual contributions to performance of back aerial double somersaults by collegiate acrobats. Somersaults were performed on a trampoline under three visual conditions: (a) NORMAL acuity; (b) REDUCED acuity (subjects wore special contacts that blocked light reflected onto the central retina); and (c) NO VISION. Videotaped skill performances were rated by two NCAA judges and digitized for kinematic analyses. Subjects' performance scores were similar in NORMAL and REDUCED conditions and lowest in the NO VISION condition. Control of body movement, indicated by time-to-contact, was most variable in the NO VISION condition. Profiles of angular head and neck velocity revealed that when subjects could see, they slowed their heads prior to touchdown in time to process optical flow information and prepare for landing. There was not always enough time to process vision associated with object identification and prepare for touchdown. It was concluded that collegiate acrobats do not need to identify objects for their best back aerial double somersault performance.

J.M. Hondzinski is with the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. MN 55455. W.G. Darling is with the Department of Exercise Science at the University of Iowa, Iowa City. 52242.

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