Winning ways with load cells (Part 2)

Published On: August 11 2022

In the second of two blogs celebrating the Commonwealth Games 2022 in Birmingham, we look at the remaining sports and how load cells are part of many podium winner’s journey to glory.

Hockey

The GB women’s hockey team did rather well at the Tokyo Olympics, winning a bronze medal. However, in the world of load cells, it’s the sport of ice hockey where they are most often used. Load cells have been used for numerous studies including:

Lawn Bowls and Para Lawn Bowls

We admit, Google didn’t come to the party on this one. But YouTube did! OK, it’s just primarily for the weighing, but bowl weight is very important. So, here’s the video that tells you how bowls are manufactured here in the UK.

Netball

Netball, like basketball, involves jumping. A lot of jumping. In 2019, a team wanted to answer an important question: “Do the landing mechanics of experienced netball players differ from those of trained athletes competing in sports that do not require frequent landings?”

Needless to say we hope that the England’s ladies netball team will be jumping for joy if they retain their current Commonwealth title. As Sky Sports says “The outfit must win seven matches in 10 days if they are to retain the title they won in 2018 on the Gold Coast.” Fingers crossed!

Para Powerlifting and Weightlifting

Needless to say, for a sport that’s about lifting weights, there are a lot of load cells in training equipment and calibrating of weights. Most of the training equipment is high end, but what if your budget is small? This article describes “How To Test An Athlete’s Max. Strength On A Shoestring Budget” using a load cell, and in particular the isometric mid-thigh pull, important in weightlifting.

Rugby Sevens

Rugby has come under the spotlight again due to the incidence of head injuries. Indeed, as one sports paper put it:

“Concussion is the most common injury in professional Rugby Union (RU) players, with increasing incidence and severity each year. Strengthening the neck is an intervention used to decrease concussion incidence and severity, which can only be proven effective if strength neck measures are reliable.”

This study into “Reliability of Repeated Isometric Neck Strength in Rugby Union Players Using a Load Cell Device” used a specially constructed testing set-up to measure neck strength:

“Participants were seated on the standard gym bench with the head and neck in a neutral position. A seat belt secured the trunk to minimise movement, and two balance air pads were placed under the feet to prevent further movement and contributions from the lower limbs. A head harness was placed around the forehead for flexion, occiput for extension, and temporal bones for lateral flexion. The harness was attached to a load cell apparatus via a rigid cable attached to a fixed metal frame.”

You can see a photo of the set-up and read the paper here.

Table Tennis and Para Table Tennis

Table tennis is a fast and furious game where the balls take a real battering. Various studies have worked on aspects of the game including a novel solution to assessing the crucial balance of a table tennis ball using a custom-designed testing device:

“For the purpose of being more objective in the evaluation process, a novel testing method for the quantification of unbalance characteristics of table tennis balls has been developed and thoroughly validated. The measurement system consists of a ball fixation device mounted on a rotating shaft which is driven by a DC motor.

The shaft is pivoted by two precision ball bearings. One is directly fixed to the systems frame, the other is integrated into a custom-made load cell (4 strain gages, HBM) in order to be able to measure forces perpendicular to the shaft.”

Triathlon and Para Triathlon

Just as load cells have helped swimmers by measuring drag, they have also been used to develop high performance triathlon swimwear. According to a blog by Hubb Ltd,

“As swimming performance is measured to the nearest 0.01 second, with swimmers in the top 15 separated by only 0.10 seconds, athletes continue to look at factors or legal aids which could improve performance in water, such as individually tested swimsuits that reduce drag.”

Wrestling

If you’ve only heard of one British wrestler in your life, it’s probably Shirley Crabtree, aka Big Daddy. Long before the days of Lycra, this 6ft 6” tall ex-miner and his regular sparring partner Giant Haystacks, delighted all ages on national TV. It all looks a bit ’stagey’ today, but just for the fun of it, here’s the pair in action in 1981. No load cells were injured in this epic bout!

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