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J Biomech. 2009 Apr 16;42(6):671-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2009.01.019. Epub 2009 Mar 17.

Reducing ground reaction forces in gymnastics' landings may increase internal loading.

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Sport and Exercise Science Department, University of Portsmouth, Spinnaker Building, PO1 2ER, United Kingdom.


The aim of this study was to use a subject-specific seven-link wobbling mass model of a gymnast, and a multi-layer model of a landing mat, to determine landing strategies that minimise ground reaction forces (GRF) and internal forces. Subject-specific strength parameters were determined that defined the maximum voluntary torque/angle/angular velocity relationship at each joint. These relationships were used to produce subject-specific 'lumped' linear muscle models for each joint. Muscle activation histories were optimised using a Simplex algorithm to minimise GRF or bone bending moments for forward and backward rotating vault landings. Optimising the landing strategy to minimise each of the GRF reduced the peak vertical and horizontal GRF by 9% for the backward rotating vault and by 8% and 48% for the forward rotating vault, compared to a matching simulation. However, most internal loading measures (bone bending moments, joint reaction forces and muscle forces) increased compared to the matching simulation. Optimising the landing strategy to minimise the peak bone bending moments resulted in reduced internal loading measures, and in most cases reduced GRF. Bone bending moments were reduced by 27% during the forward rotating vault and by 2% during the backward rotating vault landings when compared to the matching simulations. It is possible for a gymnast to modify their landing strategy in order to minimise internal forces and lower GRF. However, using a reduction in GRF, due to a change in landing strategy, as a basis for a reduction in injury potential in vaulting movements may not be appropriate since internal loading can increase.

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