For 2018, we’ve been exploring the diverse uses of load cells in the UK and beyond, and across multiple industries. It’s also been a year where science has taken centre stage in helping top athletes perform better, a particularly hot topic this week given the retirement of Sir Andy Murray from pro tennis due to the toll his sport has taken on his hips.
Winter sports and load cells
Back in February, we looked at how load cells were helping athletes at the Winter Olympics shave off those vital milliseconds from their timings. For skeleton riders, who hurtle down the luge tracks on a sled just 120cm long and a scary 20cm wide, the biggest factor in timing is wind resistance.
As the lead scientist in a research team at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) explained:
“The athlete can see in real time the affect of their movement on airflow and drag. You know the forces, but you’d also like to know what the flow looks like.”
To improve the times for bobsleigh teams, a group of Korean scientists measured the forces involved in getting a fast start (or push-off).
“Two load cells were installed in each of the brakeman’s push handle and the driver’s side push bar, and two load cells were located on each of the right and left ends of the push bar. “
Football and load cells
The beautiful game is now also a very scientific game, with an emphasis on measuring the forces exerted on players. A study into “headers”, where the players literally head butt the ball, used a dummy head to:
“Develop a methodology for accurately calculating the accelerations at the center of gravity of the head and the loads and moments at the occipital condyles.”
The football itself had been under scrutiny too, with a team from Loughborough University (1) used load cells to:
“Investigate the aerodynamic forces generated when a football is spinning quickly to generate swerve and more slowly to generate more erratic flight. “
Ballet dancers are more than artistes, they are incredible athletes too. We were amazed to read of the incredible forces on ballet dancer’s joints due to their frequent and energetic jumping. As our article explained:
“The main use of load cells in the Royal Ballet healthcare suite is in force platforms, used to analyse a dancer’s leg power. The leaps and jumps taken involve huge forces, with a male ballet dancer landing on the stage with Some male dancers land with 6,000N of force – eight times their body weight. Most dancers can also lift up to 2.5 times their own body weight using just their calf muscles.”
Load cells are also helping with the training and healthcare of non-human athletes such as horses. Just as with a human athlete, lameness can be caused by a multiple of reasons, but the result is the same; prolonged periods of rest and no racing.
A team in California took the usual hoof block measurement technique and worked to see if they could improve its accuracy:
“The data gathered from this block over time can be used to build a database to diagnose specific lameness in horses based on their stance … Another benefit of this tool will be that once lameness is identified and treatment is administered, the block can track changes in the horse’s stance over the life of the treatment and rehabilitation process.”
Load cells and sport climbers
If hanging off a rock by your fingertips is your kind of sport, this latest find is for you! A team from Politecnico Di Torino in Italy developed MACLoC or “Multi-Axis Climbing Load Cells” for performance analysis in sport climbing. As the team’s YouTube video explains:
“A multi-axial load cell was developed to measure the evolution of load in time and space. The sensor is clamped on the climbing wall and on the other side the hold is blocked. When the climber hangs on the hold the load signal is read and sent to a PC.”
One more YouTube video to whet you appetite for load cells, a demo of a digital training pad for Muay Thai (Thai boxing).