Technical skills and movement coordination in elite, national and regional level race walkers

Ezio Preatoni, Dario Cazzola, Gaspare Pavei, Alberto Enrico Minetti

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Abstract

Introduction: Race walking (RW) is a very peculiar form of locomotion that requires athletes to walk as fast as possible following two main rules: keep the knee of the supporting leg locked “from the moment of first contact with the ground until the vertical upright position”; and, generate a progression of steps with no visible flight phase. Previous studies have attempted to characterize RW performance, but the use of conventional analytical tools, including kinematic, kinetic and physiological measures, has not been very successful in discriminating between different skill levels and identifying the factors for excellent performance. Improved experimental protocols and finer analytical tools are needed to unveil the subtle differences existing between athletes of different competitive standard.

Aim: To compare coordination and coordination variability in RW, and highlight differences between elite-, national- and regional-standard athletes.

Method: A cross-sectional design was used to study the changes in coordination variability as a factor of skill level. Fifteen competitive male race walkers were assigned to the Elite, National or Regional groups depending on their season best performance, and were asked to race walk on a treadmill at 15 km/h. Optoelectronic motion capture was used to record 40 gait cycles for each participant. Pelvis and lower limb kinematics was used to study coordination variability through a dynamical system approach [1]. Continuous relative phase and its variability across multiple strides were estimated (Figure 1a). Multiple joint couplings (e.g. hip-knee, knee-ankle) and movement phases (e.g. early and late stance, swing) were considered. Kruskal-Wallis tests were used to assess the between-group differences for each variable.

Results and Discussion: Results appeared to support the hypothesis that coordination variability increases during transition phases (e.g. heel-strike and toe-off) (Figure 1b). Overall, less skilled athletes tended to produce larger coordination variability, with significantly higher values of deviation phase during the early-stance phase of the hip-knee (P=0.20), and pelvis-hip (P=0.09) couplings. Individual coordinative patterns showed the potential for characterizing individual peculiarities in specific phases of the movement and to improve the understanding of technical skills, however more work is needed to relate coordinative measures with features of the neuro-muscular-skeletal system organization.

References
[1] Preatoni, E., Hamill, J., Harrison, A.J., Hayes, K., Van Emmerik, R.E.A., Wilson, C., Rodano, R., 2013. Movement variability and skills monitoring in sports. Sports Biomechanics 12, 69-92.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAbstract Book of the 7th World Congress of Biomechanics, 2014
Place of PublicationBoston, U. S. A.
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2014

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    Preatoni, E., Cazzola, D., Pavei, G., & Minetti, A. E. (2014). Technical skills and movement coordination in elite, national and regional level race walkers. In Abstract Book of the 7th World Congress of Biomechanics, 2014