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Kevin R. Ford, Anh-Dung Nguyen, Eric J. Hegedus, and Jeffrey B. Taylor

Virtual environments with real-time feedback can simulate extrinsic goals that mimic real life conditions. The purpose was to compare jump performance and biomechanics with a physical overhead goal (POG) and with a virtual overhead goal (VOG). Fourteen female subjects participated (age: 18.8 ± 1.1 years, height: 163.2 ± 8.1 cm, weight 63.0 ± 7.9 kg). Sagittal plane trunk, hip, and knee biomechanics were calculated during the landing and take-off phases of drop vertical jump with different goal conditions. Repeated-measures ANOVAs determined differences between goal conditions. Vertical jump height displacement was not different during VOG compared with POG. Greater hip extensor moment (P < .001*) and hip angular impulse (P < .004*) were found during VOG compared with POG. Subjects landed more erect with less magnitude of trunk flexion (P = .002*) during POG compared with VOG. A virtual target can optimize jump height and promote increased hip moments and trunk flexion. This may be a useful alternative to physical targets to improve performance during certain biomechanical testing, screening, and training conditions.

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Justin P. Waxman, Kevin R. Ford, Anh-Dung Nguyen, and Jeffrey B. Taylor

Vertical stiffness may contribute to lower-extremity injury risk; however, it is unknown whether athletes with different stiffness levels display differences in biomechanics. This study compared differences in biomechanics between female athletes (n = 99) with varying stiffness levels during a repetitive, single-leg, vertical hopping task. Vertical stiffness was calculated as the ratio of peak vertical ground-reaction force to maximum center-of-mass displacement. Tertiles were established using stiffness values, and separate 1-way ANOVAs were used to evaluate between-group differences. Stance times decreased, and flight times, ground-reaction force, and stiffness increased, from the low- to high-stiffness group (P < .050). The high-stiffness group displayed: (1) greater lateral trunk flexion (P = .009) and lesser hip adduction (P = .022) at initial ground contact compared to the low- and moderate-stiffness groups, respectively; (2) lesser peak hip adduction compared to the low-stiffness group (P = .040); (3) lesser lateral trunk-flexion (P = .046) and knee-flexion (P = .010) excursion compared to the moderate- and low-stiffness groups, respectively; and (4) greater peak hip-flexion (P = .001), ankle-dorsiflexion (P = .002), and ankle-eversion (P = .038) moments compared to the low-stiffness group. A wide range of variability in stiffness exists within a relatively homogenous population. Athletes with varying stiffness levels display biomechanical differences that may help identify the potential mechanism(s) by which stiffness contributes to injury risk.