3D spine tracking technology could benefit young tennis players

5 July 2012 (Last Updated July 5th, 2012 18:30)

Loughborough University's sports technology research group has partnered with Midlands-based Charnwood Dynamics and the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) to use its 3D motion tracking hardware combined with new software to look in 3D detail into the spine movement of junior tennis players during serve for the first time.

Loughborough University's sports technology research group has partnered with Midlands-based Charnwood Dynamics and the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) to use its 3D motion tracking hardware combined with new software to look in 3D detail into the spine movement of junior tennis players during serve for the first time.

In a recent study, LTA identified early signs of lower back injury in junior tennis players at the National Tennis Centre in London, UK.

The signs were detected using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and the study concluded that the injuries were due to service action with excessively high levels of back extension, lateral flexion and rotation combined with high levels of acceleration.

"For the first time ever the university has been able to look at the spinal motion in detail during the serve."

The team captured the service action of a number of high-level tennis players, including 2010 Junior Wimbledon Doubles Champion and Junior Wimbledon Singles Finalist 2011, Liam Broady, during the Wimbledon qualifiers.

Loughborough University sports technology expert, Ashley Gray, said that for the first time ever the university has been able to look at the spinal motion in detail during the serve.

"We hope this project provides a platform for coaches and scientists to apply the technology in future research that is evidently required in this area, with the ideal to create a blueprint of a safe and effective technique for the younger player," Gray added.

With the implementation of the project, supported by a Research Councils fund, Charnwood Dynamics is able to provide a tennis-specific test protocol, which will include report of 3D movements to help players and coaches understand how the movements relate to their own normal ranges of motion, as well as to determine when and where there is potential to exceed the movements.

The test will also provide insight into key limb movements that could also help improve serve performance.