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Microcomputers in Biomechanics Research

Doris I. Miller

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Dr. Richard C. Nelson: Behind the Scenes

Doris I. Miller

As the first PhD graduate of the Biomechanics Laboratory at the Pennsylvania State University under the leadership of Dr. Richard C. Nelson, I reflect on my early experience in sport biomechanics there and its influence on some of my subsequent, and typically unpublished, research challenges.

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Greg Louganis’ Springboard Takeoff: I: Temporal and Joint Position Analysis

Doris I. Miller and Carolyn F. Munro

A temporal and joint position analysis was conducted on Greg Louganis' forward and reverse 3-m springboard takeoffs performed during National Sports Festival V in Colorado Springs. The most notable differences between Louganis' technique and those of eight women finalists in the 1982 Canadian Winter Nationals (Miller & Munro, 1984) were in his greater ranges of joint motion particularly at the knees, hips, and shoulders. He also employed a straighter arm-swing. The fact that Louganis' takeoff duration averaged 0.45 ± 0.01 s, compared with a mean of 0.38 s for the women, allowed him more time to complete joint flexion and extension. This raised questions of adapting technique to progressive changes in skill and strength and monitoring improvement in performance objectively on a longitudinal basis.

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Greg Louganis’ Springboard Takeoff: II. Linear and Angular Momentum Considerations

Doris I. Miller and Carolyn F. Munro

A linear and angular momentum analysis was conducted on Greg Louganis' forward and reverse 3-m springboard takeoffs performed during National Sports Festival V in Colorado Springs, and differences among dives were examined. At initial contact with the board, his horizontal velocity approximated 0.5 m/s across all dives analyzed. In the forward 3.5 somersaults pike, the horizontal velocity subsequently increased in magnitude until the latter half of recoil. By contrast, in the forward and reverse dives and reverse 2.5 somersaults, horizontal velocity displayed an initial reduction followed by an increase to the final value of 0.8 to 1.2 m/s. His vertical velocities at touchdown (−4.3 to −4.5 m/s) increased to 5.0 to 6.0 m/s during the takeoff, with the final upward velocity being related to the type of dive performed. At initial contact, Louganis’ total body angular momentum with respect to his center of gravity was negligible. By the end of the takeoff, it had increased to 18 kg-m-m/s for the forward dive straight and was three and four times that magnitude for his reverse 2.5 and forward 3.5 somersaults pike, respectively. Between 80 and 90% of the total angular momentum at the end of the takeoff was due to the segment remote contributions. The importance of the upper extremities in developing somersaulting angular momentum was shown by the fact that they were responsible for between 30 and 43% of the final angular momentum in all but the forward dive straight.

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Factors Influencing the Performance of Springboard Dives of Increasing Difficulty

Doris I. Miller and Eric J. Sprigings

Major factors influencing the ability of divers to perform nontwisting springboard dives of increasing degree of difficulty were investigated. The analysis was based upon 49 dives (42 in pike and 7 in tuck) executed by male and female medalists in the 1996 Olympics. Videotapes were digitized to determine competitors’ vertical velocities and angular momenta at the beginning of dive flight. Centripetal force and resultant joint torque models were used to estimate the effort needed to perform multiple somersaulting dives. Increasing degree of difficulty by spinning in a pike rather than a tuck position for the same number of somersaults was associated with decreased vertical velocity at the start of dive flight, decreased angular velocity while somersaulting in a quasi-rigid position, and little change in centripetal force or related muscular effort. Increasing degree of difficulty by adding a somersault while rotating in a tuck rather than a pike position involved increases in vertical and angular velocities, a smaller increase in angular momentum, and notable increases in resultant joint torque and centripetal force. Sufficient muscular torque to maintain a compact spinning position was considered to be the major additional challenge facing divers making the transition from a 21/2 pike to a 31/2 tuck.

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Initiating Rotation in Back and Reverse Armstand Triple Somersaults Tuck Dives

Karen Murtaugh and Doris I. Miller

To determine strategies for initiating rotation in armstand back and reverse triple somersaults tuck dives from the 10-m platform, videotaped records of 17 elite male divers performing in competitions between 1995 and 1999 were analyzed. Linear and angular momenta at last contact were similar for both dives. Although the lower extremity actions were comparable, they occurred significantly earlier (p < .05) in reverse triple takeoffs, allowing divers to enter the tuck more quickly. As divers lean, the moment arm of the vertical platform reaction force increases with respect to the CG. The vertical platform reaction force moment promotes back and opposes reverse somersaulting angular momentum. Meanwhile, the horizontal platform reaction force moment promotes reverse and opposes back somersaulting angular momentum. Consequently, divers performing reverse triples maintained a more vertical trunk position during the early part of the takeoff, while those executing back triples leaned further before initiating lower and upper extremity actions to exert force against the platform. Since the strategy for reverse rotation may result in the head passing close to the platform and there is very little to gain in degree of difficulty, it is recommended that competitors execute back rather than reverse somersaulting armstand dives.

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Takeoff Characteristics of Single and Double Axel Figure Skating Jumps

Wayne J. Albert and Doris I. Miller

Takeoff kinematics of axel jumps were determined from a spatial analysis of singles and doubles performed by 16 figure skaters. The takeoff was divided into glide, transition, and pivot phases. During the glide, horizontal speed remained constant, vertical velocity was slightly negative, and over half the angular momentum for flight was generated. In the transition, skaters gained considerable vertical velocity from tangential motion by rotating about the long axis of the blade, Initially this reduced the angle of the support leg with respect to the vertical while the blade ran in the direction of progression. Most skaters continued to gain vertical velocity by angling the blade to the direction of progression (skidding) and rotating up and forward, still about the blade's long axis. There was little angular momentum gain, and forward speed decreased significantly. In the pivot, skaters rocked forward onto the toe picks losing horizontal speed, vertical velocity, and angular momentum.

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Critical Examination of Ground Reaction Force in the Running Forward Somersault

Doris I. Miller and Mauno A. Nissinen

Ground reaction forces (GRF) elicited by nine male gymnasts during a running forward somersault were examined to investigate their characteristics in relation to the performance. Support averaged 135 ms with braking GRF dominating in the antero-posterior direction. Vertically, impact averaging 13.6 body weights (BW) was recorded followed by a second peak of 6.1 BW. The relative minimum in vertical GRF and lowest body position coincided temporally at 23% of support time; maximum knee flexion and minimum distance between the center of gravity (CG) and the support point occurred at 36 and 37%, respectively; and the second vertical GRF peak and maximum dorsiflexion were registered at 44%. The results suggested that, while vertical touchdown and last contact velocities of the CG could be approximated from GRF, eccentric ankle and knee extensor contraction continues beyond the relative minimum in the vertical GRF curve and is more closely related to the period before the CG reaches its minimum distance from the support point.

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Optimal Knee Extension Timing in Springboard and Platform Dives from the Reverse Group

Eric J. Sprigings and Doris I. Miller

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.

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Kinetic and Kinematic Characteristics of 10-m Platform Performances of Elite Divers: I. Back Takeoffs

Doris I. Miller, Ewald Hennig, Marc A. Pizzimenti, Ian C. Jones, and Richard C. Nelson

Reaction forces elicited from the 10-m platform by the 29 male and 26 female competitors in the Fifth World Diving Championships during the takeoffs for dives from the back group were analyzed and related to their patterns of motion. Major changes in linear and angular momentum occurred during the final period of upward acceleration. During this “final weighting” phase, maximum vertical reactions of 3.0 to 4.0 times body weight (BW) and maximum horizontal reactions in the “propulsive” direction of 0.5 BW were recorded. Further, the moment of vertical platform reaction with respect to the center of gravity, which was dominant and promoted backward rotation, was opposed by the moment of the horizontal component. At final contact with the platform, higher vertical velocities were more evident for back dives than multiple back somersaults, and for dives performed in tuck than in pike, and in pike than in straight positions.