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Use a Scalpel Approach

When I was growing up and throughout my formal education I was lucky to have a great mentor.  He was my medical doctor. I can still hear him humming his favorite tune in my head.  As an intern in chiropractic school I would sit with him in his study while he drank scotch and smoked a Cuban and we would discuss the latest research in medicine and discuss patient care.  The one thing that he always instilled in me and what made him a great medical doctor was his diagnostic capabilities.  The key to a proper treatment is in the diagnosis.  Spend most of your time here and the rest will come quickly.

The statements are simple but lost in today’s training and rehab world.  It is one of my pet peeves (and I have many).  The human body is complex and we are all different.  Should you get the same prescription for high blood pressure as the person sitting next to you in the waiting room?  Should you wear the same size shirt as the person sitting across from you at Starbucks?  Then why are we so accepting of getting generic programs when training.  Now before everyone starts to spill their coffee let me preface this by saying that the articles I write are more geared toward the competitive athletic population.  Yes I agree that weight loss classes for groups can show results, and sit down CrossFit as I’m not picking on you yet.  I’m talking about young athletes and people who want to take a shot at being a professional who are given generic programs.  Our bodies don’t look the same, they don’t have the same composition of muscle tissue (fast versus slow twitch), our nervous systems function differently (some more twitchy and others more time dependent), but still trainers sell cookie cutter one size fits all online programming to everyone.  Yes there is a great legal disclaimer, but what service does this do?

Recently and the reason I am writing this article is I came across a generic baseball heavy ball program including exercises that was being offered online.  It makes complete sense.  Let’s not test the kids and see if they are strong enough to handle throwing a weighted baseball or get any sense of their physical capabilities.  Then let’s give all of them the same program.  When injuries occur the disclaimer is there and hey if the kids get hurt it’s their fault for not training properly.  Or was it the fact that a proper diagnosis wasn’t made so you have no concept of what was wrong with the athlete to start?  This also happens in local gyms and team gyms everywhere.  The possibility that the entire team is made of athletes with the same inefficiencies and same athletic profiles is slim.  The problem is when we train all the athletes the same, some will improve and others by sheer logic will make their inefficiencies greater.

At The Performance Lab everything related to our athletes is based on the diagnosis.  We have followed my mentor’s advice.  We run our own algorithms, put everyone through force plate testing and then 3D motion capture to see what is going on with the athlete and how to train them.  Now is this excessive and does a twelve year old need this to succeed?  I would argue yes even if it isn’t to this degree. Other cheaper ways of assessment are available to give some insight into the athlete before a program should be given.  Yes it takes more time and requires more learning but the results are faster.  I’ve worked with many great trainers and one common thread is their ability to individualize programs and diagnose what is inefficient in that athlete.  Screen athletes, use video from your iPad or simply talk to them and find out what is going on.  Giving athletes a program without any knowledge of their background, history, injuries, injury risks, or not attempting to figure out their inefficiencies, is basic.

– Carm

Force Plate – The Gold Standard

Jump mats have gained popularity due to their relatively low cost and portability compared to the industry standard force plate.  Used primarily to assess standing vertical jumps and drop vertical jumps, both reveal valuable data about how an athlete puts force into the ground.  This information is then used to design/modify the athlete’s training program based on the needs of their sport.

With such a significant difference in cost and size, what are the pros and cons of each?  If the jump mat gives the same information, why would you invest in a force plate? Because it does NOT give the same information…or even all the information.


What are the Differences?

Measurements:  The jump mat measures vertical ground reaction forces – so only the forces that contribute to up/down movement.  The force plate measures vertical, lateral, and anterior/posterior ground reaction forces – this includes forces that the athlete uses for balance, stability, and directional changes in movement.  This is especially applicable to athletes that change direction in their sport…. which is the majority of sports.  This limits what the jump mat can measure to only vertical impacts from a vertical starting position – either standing or a straight drop down.  The force plate can measure any and all directions of impact.  This provides crucial insight to how the athlete controls their body and distributes force in all directions.

Accuracy:  The jump mat and the force plate have been shown to both have a linear correlation, meaning that they measure changes in force equally.  However, there is a significant difference is the actual values.  The jump mat has been shown to be off by as much as 17% in ground contact time, which in turn will impact additional calculations such as impulse, rate of force development, and jump height.  The accuracy decreased further when the movement speed increased (i.e. a slow standing vertical jump versus a fast drop vertical jump).


Which Do You Need?

For coaches that a) understand how to analyze vertical force data, and b) are looking to measure slow standing vertical jumps only, a jump mat would be an ideal and cost-effective solution. Keeping in mind that precise accuracy will suffer with your faster moving athletes.  But for coaches and trainers looking for information beyond that scope, a force plate is the gold standard and the best option to gather all information with superior accuracy and reliability.


Rogan S, Radlinger L, Imhasly C, Kneubuehler A, Hilfiker R. Validity Study of a Jump Mat Compared to the Reference Standard Force Plate. Asian Journal of Sports Medicine. 2015;6(4):e25561. 

Kenny IC, O’Caireallain A, Comyns TM. Validation of an electronic jump mat to assess stretch-shortening cycle function. J of Strength Cond Res. 2012;26(6):1601-8.

– Kait

2D Motion Capture is Fake News

When it comes to true sports science, there is no doubt that 3D motion capturing is the gold standard. Everything else is just pretending.

3D Optical Motion Capture surrounds the environment with 3D cameras to create a capture volume.  Each camera emits an infrared light that bounces off reflective spherical ‘markers’ placed on the athlete while they are in the capture volume.  Those reflections are seen by the cameras to determine the location of each marker in 3D space.  This allows analysis of movement in all three axes and planes of movement, which is required for every sport. Marker position is recorded at a submillimeter accuracy – this is the gold standard of motion tracking.

2D Motion Capture uses one or more cameras typically set up in a line or in a few key positions around the capture volume.  Each camera records a video and/or marker data in one plane of motion.  This produces data of athlete movement in that particular plane, but is limited in accuracy and movement in the other two planes. For example: a 2D camera pointed towards the side of the athlete will record sagittal plane angles (flexion) and would produce reliable results as long as the athlete remains in the plane of motion (does not change direction). However, there is no reliable data on frontal or transverse plane angles or rotations.  This restricts the environment and the movement that the athlete can do in order to maintain an acceptable level of accuracy.

For those interested in only one plane of movement or axis of rotation, a 2D system is cost-effective and would produce reliable results.  However, if you require movement analysis of an athlete through multiple planes of movement (typical of just about every sport), 3D motion analysis is well known as the best tool for accurate and reliable information.

Schurr SA, Marshall AN, Resch JE, Saliba SA. Two-dimensional video analysis is comparable to 3D motion capture in lower extremity assessment. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy. 2017;12(2):163-172.

Study Conclusion:
Moderate to strong relationships were observed between 2D video camera and 3D motion capture analyses at all joints in the sagittal plane, and the average mean difference was comparable to the standard error of measure with goniometry. The results suggest that despite the lack of precision and ability to capture rotations, 2D measurements may provide a pragmatic method of evaluating sagittal plane joint displacement for assessing gross movement displacement and therein risk of lower extremity injury.

– Kait

Here we go…

The time has come.

For the vast majority of my career I have kept my head down and worked.  I didn’t enjoy being in the spot light even though I was put in it time after time.  I have worked as a therapist or strength trainer with many famous names and studied under many great experts.  My friends and colleagues have always tried to push me to write more or speak up when information is presented online that is plain inaccurate or dumb.  I always found an excuse which usually was “I’m too busy” or “I don’t like social media”.  I started my own sports science facility in Toronto, Canada that focuses on providing the diagnosis of injury and performance deficiencies.  We use true 3D motion capture and a research grade force plate.  I was lucky to work at some of the top sports science centers in the world and I am grateful to have such great mentors.  I recruited some of the smartest people I know, bought the best technology I could find, and put together a place I’m fucking proud of.  No detail was spared.  The Performance Lab was born.  Years later, we continue to excel at what we do and are looking to grow and help expand science in sport.

So myself and the team are starting to write.  I’m enjoying it.  We spend our days at the Lab with our heads down but now we are starting to do our own research and writing.  Yes we are typically wearing jeans, tees and vans.  Yes we are covered in ink.  And yes we have insanely high IQs and have read every study related to anything you can name.  We are outside the box thinkers and we like it that way.  And we plan on showcasing what we do in a bit of an out of the box kind of way.  Over the next few months we plan on releasing our findings.  No I won’t tell you what we are working on just now.  And we will start taking on issues and topics in the field that we see as poorly done or just plain bullshit.

Here we go.

– Carm

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