Physical Therapy researchers have applied biomechanical sensors to detect aspects of the way people run that can cause injuries in amateur runners, as well as detecting differences between men and women.
Fifty percent of amateur runners suffers at least one injury in their first year. The use of several biomechanical sensors while they run provide data that, with the appropriate analysis, can detect possible injury risk factors and prevent future injuries, thanks to the feedback with the runner in real time while they run. Physical Therapy researchers from the CEU Cardenal Herrera University presented their results from applying this technique, called gait retraining, in young triathletes aged 11 to 18 from the Technification Group of the Triathlon Federation of the Valencian Community, achieving a decrease in the number of injuries following a seven-month programme. This is the first research conducted on young triathletes to prevent injuries while running, which was presented in Valencia, in the VI International JAM Sports Congress, held recently at the La Petxina sport-cultural complex.
By attaching different sensors on the body of the runner, the researchers conducted a dynamic surface electromyography. They used an inertial sensor, conducted a video-analysis of their gait and the dynamics while running. The three parts of this research presented at the Congress have been guided by associate professor and coordinator of the Degree in Physical therapy of the CEU UCH, Javier Martínez Gramage, head of the Movement Analysis Research Laboratory LIAMCEU, which offered at the Congress a workshop on this method to prevent injuries while running, based on the analysis of biomechanical indicators.
As professor Martínez Gramage explains, “the indicators that these sensors provide allow us to establish optimal running parameters to prevent possible injuries by giving the runner indications through feedback in real time during the test, so that they may correct the aspects of the way they run that may cause an injury in the future, thus readapting their way of running. This clinical intervention in real time with the use of biomechanical sensors does not only make it possible to decrease the risk of injuries, but also contributes to improve performance and the athlete’s motivation.”
In the talks offered by the CEU UCH researchers in ‘runners amateurs’, the sensors applied to the partaking runners have made it possible to control variables such as cadence, the time of the gait and ground contact cycle, balance, the length of the stride, flight time, strength or speed, among others. And the video-analysis has provided data such as the contralateral pelvic tilt, knee extension, tibial inclination or dorsiflexion while running.
Different injuries in men and women
With surface electromyography, a technique used to measure muscular activation, the CEU UCH researchers also studied the differences in muscular activation of the gluteus maximum, gluteus medius and the vastus medialis between men and women, in 38 amateur runners. And they analysed the differences in men and women in the movement of the pelvis of 101 non-professional runners, using for the first time an inertial movement sensor.
“The results obtained make it possible to improve the prevention of injuries and their treatment depending on the gender of the runner,” highlights professor Martínez Gramage, who conducted these studies alongside Physical Therapy professors Eva Segura, María Dolores Arguisuelas and Juan José Amer, the CEINDO school doctoral candidate Iván Nácher, who is developing his dissertation on the differences of muscular activation between men and women while running; professor of the Universidad Pontífica of Salamanca Sara Perpiñá; and professor from the Unversity of Buenos Aires, Willig Gabriel.
Injury prediction with artificial intelligence
In the third study presented at the JAM Sports Congress by this research team, they were aided by the collaboration of professor Juan Pardo, head researcher of the ESAI Group of the CEU UCH, for the use of Artificial Intelligence systems to the prediction of the most common injuries, thanks to a combination of predictive trees known as Random Forest, to thus be able to prevent them.
“The use of artificial intelligence is especially interesting for professional and elite athletes, for whom it is essential to be able to predict injuries. In this first study, we have applied it on young triathletes aged 11 to 18 from the Sport Specialisation Plan of the Valencian Community and the Triathlon Federation,” says Martínez Gramage. Following the intervention with gait training in these young triathletes, “we detected, through the application of this algorithm, that the contralateral tilt of the pelvis and the low activation of the gluteus medius are the variables that are the most related to the appearance of future injuries for these triathletes. The readaptation to running in real time to correct these two biomechanical parameters has helped decrease the appearance of injuries in the 19 participants in the programme”.
In this study, the CEU UCH researchers have collaborated with Vanesa Huesa, from the Triathlon Federation of the Valencian Community, as well as students of the Analysis of Human Movement subject, from the fourth year of the Degree in Physical Therapy of the CEU UCH, Clovis Varangot-Reille and Llum Barea Tarín.