How is Science Sculpting the Modern Athlete?

by Jackie Edwards

Sport is big business these days, with the market worth $60.5 million in North America and predicted to rise to $73.5 billion in 2019. Sports is not only a moneymaker for event promoters and the media; it is also increasingly being seen as a top career choice for those with the talent, drive, and commitment required to succeed. New developments in sport have shown that success is not all about the individual athlete. In popular sports like tennis, football, or golf, science & technology are playing an important role in helping competitors perform at their full potential. In this post, we look at just a few ways that science is changing the way we play and compete.

Swing Training Technology for Golf

You would need to be a master physicist to work out the exact angle at which to position your club when playing golf, but science and technology are making it a whole lot easier with swing training technology, which brings real-time body positioning analysis to everyday golfers with the help of a handy app. The app ‘tells’ golfers exactly how to position their body and gives them top information on how to do better next time. Of course, the app won’t fix deeper problems such as weak muscles in the shoulder and back. Top level athletes will also need to regularly carry out specific training programs for golf, which include strength training for key muscle groups. In essence, performing the right swing depends on issues like back strength, so you may need to address this first to perfect your game.

Head and Neck Support for Motor Sports

Dale Earnhardt’s death on the track at the Daytona 500 race revealed the extent to which the head and neck area are vulnerable in motor sports. HANS devices have been created by scientists to stop the head from whipping forwards and backwards in the event of an accident, and to lend more support to the neck. The device is U-shaped and is positioned behind the neck, with two ‘arms’ that extend over the pectorals. Over 140,000 devices have already been sold worldwide.

Wearable Computers and Hawk-Eye Camera Systems

Wearable computers are allowing both players and managers to assess a player’s level of fatigue, hydration levels, etc. This type of information is vital to avoid heart attacks and other major health events from taking place on the field. Smart fabrics will enable athletes to glean even more information, including heart function data and movement of the body’s center of mass. Scientists have stated that the future could take us beyond wearables. The Hawk-Eye camera system is currently used to obtain information on running biomechanics and other metrics during games of elite players. The NBA, meanwhile, relies on Second Spectrum’s computer vision technology to obtain information about player positioning and other 3D data such as ball and referee positioning.

We have presented just a few ways in which science and technology are enabling athletes to perform more optimally, but also to stay safe. Wearable devices and fabrics, aerial camera systems, and new safety gear are making sport a much more scientifically accurate and appealing pursuit. Information is power, and nowhere is this truer than on the field or track.

Evolution of Ergonomics: From Early Man to Modern Human

by Jackie Edwards

The word ergonomics was first used in 1857 in a philosophical narrative by Polish scientist Prof. Wojciech Jastrzebowski. The term derives its name from two Greek words – Ergon, which means ‘work’ and Nomos, which translates to ‘natural law,’ literally translating into ‘how to work according to nature.’ So, ergonomics is a scientific discipline involved in the design and creation of safe and comfortable workspaces so as to best utilize a person’s abilities and boost productivity.

For example, viewing cute pictures to increase workplace productivity is also an important discovery in the field of ergonomics which increases work efficiency by enhancing the mood of workers. In layman language, ergonomics refers to designing products, environments, and systems where people are involved so as to minimize risks of harms or injuries and also, related mental or emotional stress. Interestingly, this principle has been in existence for a long time even though the term itself may have just been coined in recent history.

Where it all began

Ergonomics has been in the very cradle of human evolution, ever since early man began making tools from bones and pebbles to make tasks easier. Archaeological findings have revealed sophisticated ergonomic devices, tools, and equipment from ancient Egyptian dynasties and 5th Century BCE Greece. Several centuries later, we still use axes, plows, hammers and several such tools only in their more improvised and sophisticated designs to fit into our advanced living environment. However, it was not until the 16th century that ergonomics began to be understood and studied. It all started with Bernardino Ramazinni’s medical journal ‘De Morbis Artificum (Diseases of Workers)’ which brought to light the various injuries incurred by his patients, resulting from unfavorable conditions in their occupations and workspaces.

Industrial Revolution

During the historical Industrial Revolution of 19th century, ergonomics was at the pinnacle of attention, being studied like never before. Spinning Jennies and rolling mills were invented to speed up work. Frederick W. Taylor pioneered the process of ergonomics by evaluating the best and easier ways of accomplishing a task and eventually succeeded in improving worker productivity and wages in a shoveling job. Frank and Lillian Gilbreth, on the other hand, standardized materials, work processes and tools and began time motion analysis to make workflow efficient and less tiring.

World War II

With World War II, ergonomics reached a newer height, prompting research in man and machine interaction. This began to prominently reveal itself especially in the design of military systems like naval ships, aircraft and weaponry. The complex devices from radar to aircraft that were manufactured for the war began to demand a better grip of ergonomics without which there was a continuous risk of loss of personnel or equipment. In 1943, a U.S Army lieutenant, Alphonse Chapanis brought to light how so-called “pilot errors” could be greatly reduced. That is when logical and easier to understand control buttons were born in the cockpits of aircraft.

Ergonomics today

Work or ergonomic-related musculoskeletal injuries contributed to a third of day-offs from workplaces as per data published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2013. And, most of these were reported from sectors like agriculture, manufacturing, construction, transportation and warehousing, healthcare and entertainment/recreation. These injuries have not only sparked concern but with it, have also spiked renewed interest in the subject of ‘ergonomics’ to inspire futuristic designs for new age tools tailored to modern technological advances and lifestyle of humans.

Ergonomics may be a relatively new term and newer field of study. However, it has been a part of our life since the very moment of Stone Age. Today, Ergonomics is studied in-depth with specializations in cognitive, organizational and physical sciences.

Health Benefits of Gaming

by Marcus Clarke

Apparently it was the Buddha who first said ‘health is the greatest gift’. He was certainly right. However, he probably never imagined that one of the ways we can receive this ‘greatest gift’ is video games, as much research is now showing that gaming can be extremely good for your health, in a bewildering number of ways.

For example, gaming can increase the strength and size of the brain areas associated with a number of key skills, such as motor skills and spatial awareness. So gaming can actually increase the size of your brain! As well as this, gaming can reduce sensations of pain. Studies on soldiers who had been injured in battle, in which half were asked to play on a virtual reality game and half acted as a control group, found that those who played video games were less likely to need pain meds. Amazing! There’s more! Gaming can slow down cognitive decline in the elderly and those that are suffering from degenerative neurological disorders. As such, gaming in this sense has many public health applications.

Have you recently suffered from some sort of trauma? Fear not. Gaming may be the answer, and research has shown that gaming can minimize the effects of trauma. One study showed, for example, that those who had recently undergone surgery and played video games were likely to recover more quickly. Likewise, those who had undergone traumatic events were likely to have fewer flashbacks and after effects if they played video games.

So, gaming is not just about fun, and vegging out on a weekend after a hard week at work. It can actually have really positive effects, particularly on your cognitive health. Likewise, modern games are increasingly good for your cardio health, as games become more active, and your body becomes the controller.

To find out more about how gaming can be good for your, see the infographic below from Computer Planet.

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