Sports Engineering

, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 191–202 | Cite as

Biomechanics research and sport equipment development

  • Darren J. Stefanyshyn
  • John W. WannopEmail author
Invited Paper


Advances in sport equipment have revolutionized athletic competition with engineers developing equipment that can enhance performance. However, not all athletes are able to benefit from the new, ideal equipment, with some athletes performing worse. Although the engineering may be sound, the interaction between the piece of equipment, the athlete, and the action is missing. The purely mechanical system of the piece of equipment becomes a biomechanical system once it is interacting with the athlete. Research into the underlying mechanisms of performance in sport has relied heavily on biomechanical studies. The review of these studies has identified important performance and injury variables that can be influenced by sport equipment. This baseline information helps provide a fundamental understanding of human performance that guide equipment designers and developers. A flawlessly engineered mechanical piece of sport equipment can still fail if the athlete–equipment interaction is not properly addressed in the design process. How an athlete uses a piece of equipment and furthermore how an athlete may change or adapt to changes in properties of a piece of equipment must be taken into consideration. Using properties of footwear as an example, research has provided understanding of the biomechanical limiting factors regarding the influence of footwear traction on athletic performance. Data on other footwear properties such as cushioning and forefoot bending stiffness are limited. Intrinsic musculoskeletal properties, such as the force–length and force–velocity relationships of skeletal muscle, can be exploited through equipment design, as has been shown during cycling. Modifications to equipment parameters can shift the operating range of an athlete within these relationships to maximize force or power output, which was shown during the development of the clap skate. Additionally, these properties vary slightly from athlete to athlete and minor adjustments to a piece of sporting equipment can help optimize individual athletes according to their specific biomechanical characteristics.


Biomechanics Sport equipment Equipment design Footwear Musculoskeletal 


  1. 1.
    Iwatsubo T, Kawamura S, Miyamoto K, Yamaguchi T (2000) Numerical analysis of golf club head and ball at various impact points. Sports Eng 3:195–204CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Maeda M (2011) Effects of baseball bat mass and position of center of gravity on batting. Procedia Eng 2:2675–2680CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Eftaxiopoulou T, Narayanana A, Dear JP, Bull AMJ (2011) A performance comparison between cricket bat designs. Proc Inst Mech Eng 226:16–23Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Nicolls RL, Elliot BC, Miller K, Koh M (2003) Bat kinematics in baseball: implications for ball exit velocity and player safety. J Appl Biomech 19:283–294Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Worobets JT, Wannop JW, Tomaras E, Stefanyshyn DJ (2014) Softer and more resilient running shoe cushioning properties enhance running economy. Footwear Sci 6(3):147–153CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Kenny IC, Wallace ES, Brown D, Otto SR (2006) Validation of a full-body computer simulation of the golf drive for clubs of differing length. The engineering of sport 6. Springer, New York, pp 11–16CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Suzuki S, Inooka H (1998) A new golf-swing robot model utilizing shaft elasticity. J Sound Vib 217(1):17–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Ming A, Kajitani M (2003) A new golf swing robot to simulate human skill—accuracy improvement of swing motion by learning control. Mechatronics 13:809–823CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Pearsall D, Hodges A, Wu T-C, Turcotte R, Lefebvre R, Montgomery D, Bateni H (2001) The performance of the ice hockey slap shot: the effects to stick construction and player skill. In: Blackwell & Sanders JR (ed) Proceedings of the international symposium on biomechanics in sport XIX, pp 74–77Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Worobets JT, Fairbairn JC, Stefanyshyn DJ (2006) The influence of shaft stiffness on potential energy and puck speed during wrist and slap shots in ice hockey. Sports Eng 9(4):191–200CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Worobets JT, Stefanyshyn DJ (2008) Shaft stiffness: implications for club fitting. In: Crew D, Lutz R (ed) Science and Golf V. Proceedings of the World Scientific Congress of Golf, pp 431–437Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Haeufle DFB, Worobets JT, Wright I, Haeufle J, Stefanyshyn DJ (2012) Golfers do not respond to changes in shaft mass properties in a mechanically predictable way. Sports Eng 15:215–220CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Hennig EM, Sterzing T (2010) The influence of soccer shoe design on playing performance: a series of biomechanical studies. Footwear Sci 2(1):3–11CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Sterzing T, Muller C, Hennig EM, Milani TL (2009) Actual and perceived running performance in soccer shoes: a series of eight studies. Footwear Sci 1(1):5–17CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Wannop JW, Worobets JT (2013) Influence of basketball shoe mass, traction and bending stiffness on athletic performance. Footwear Sci 5(S1):S98–S100CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Luo G, Stefanyshyn DJ (2011) Identification of critical traction values for maximum athletic performance. Footwear Sci 3(3):127–138CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Stefanyshyn DJ, Lee J-S, Park S-K (2010) The influence of soccer cleat design on resultant joint moments. Footwear Sci 2(1):13–19CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Wannop JW, Worobets JT, Stefanyshyn DJ (2010) Footwear traction and lower extremity joint loading. Am J Sport Med 38:1221–1228CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Wannop JW, Luo G, Stefanyshyn DJ (2013) Footwear traction and lower extremity noncontact injury. Med Sci Sport Exer 45(11):2137–2143CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Luo G (2012) Limiting factors for curved sprinting performance. Dissertation, University of CalgaryGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Greene PR (1985) Running on flat turns: experiments, theory, and applications. J Biomech Eng 107:96–103MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Usherwood JR, Wilson AM (2006) Accounting foe elite indoor 200m sprint results. Biol Lett 2:47–50CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Chang Y-H, Kram R (2007) Limitations to maximum running speed on flat curves. J Exp Biol 210:971–982CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Luo G, Stefanyshyn DJ (2013) Limb force and non-sagittal plane joint moments during maximum-effort curve sprint running in humans. J Exp Biol 215:4314–4321CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Kuitunen S, Komi PV, Kyrolainen H (2002) Knee and ankle joint stiffness in sprint running. Med Sci Sport Exerc 34:166–173CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Dorn TW, Schache AG, Pandy MG (2012) Muscular strategy shift in human running: dependence of running speed on hip and ankle muscle performance. J Exp Biol 215:1944–1956CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Greene PR (1987) Sprinting with banked turns. J Biomech 20(7):667–680CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Luo G, Stefanyshyn DJ (2012) Ankle moment generation and maximum-effort curved sprinting performance. J Biomech 45:2763–2768CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Wannop JW, Graf ES, Stefanyshyn DJ (2014) The effect of lateral banking on the kinematics and kinetics of the lower extremity during lateral cutting movements. Hum Movement Sci 33:97–107CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    McMahon TA, Greene PR (1979) The influence of track compliance on running. J Biomech 12(12):893–904CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Ferris DP, Louie M, Farley CT (1998) Running in the real world: adjusting leg stiffness for different surfaces. P Roy Soc Lond B Biol 265:989–994CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Ferris DP, Liang K, Farley CT (1999) Runners adjust leg stiffness for their first step on a new running surface. J Biomech 32:787–794CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Kerdok AE, Biewener AA, McMahon TA, Weyand PG, Herr HM (2002) Energetics and mechanics of human running on surfaces of different stiffnessess. J Appl Physiol 92:469–478CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Hardin EC, van den Bogert AJ, Hamill J (2004) Kinematic adaptations during running: effects of footwear, surface and duration. Med Sci Sport Exerc 36:838–844CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Morgan DW, Martin PE, Krahenbuhl GS (1989) Factors affecting running economy. Sports Med 7(5):310–330CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Foster C, Luca A (2007) Running economy: the forgotten factor in elite performance. Sports Med 37(4–5):316–319CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Saunders PU, Pyne DB, Telford RD, Hawley JA (2004) Reliability and variability of running economy in elite distance runners. Med Sci Sport Exerc 36(11):1972–1976CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Busco C, Rusko H (1983) The effect of prolonged skeletal muscle stretch-shortening cycle on recoil of elastic energy and on energy expenditure. Acta Physiol Scand 119(3):219–224CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Frederick EC, Howley ET, Powers SK (1986) Lower oxygen cost while running in soft soled shoes. Res Quart 57(174):177Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Nigg BM, Stefanyshyn DJ, Cole G, Stergiou P, Miller J (2003) The effect of material characteristics of shoe soles on muscle activation and energy aspects during running. J Biomech 36(4):569–575CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Roy JP, Stefanyshyn DJ (2006) Shoe midsole longitudinal bending stiffness and running economy, joint energy and EMG. Med Sci Sport Exerc 38(3):562–569CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Stefanyshyn DJ, Fusco C (2003) Increase shoe bending stiffness increases sprint performance. Sport Biomech 3(1):55–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Stefanyshyn DJ, Nigg BM (2000) Influence of midsole bending stiffness on joint energy and jump height performance. Med Sci Sport Exerc 32(2):471CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. 44.
    Stefanyshyn DJ, Nigg BM (1997) Mechanical energy contribution of the metatarsophalangeal joint to running and sprinting. J Biomech 30:1081–1085CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. 45.
    Toon D (2008) Design and analysis of sprint footwear to investigate the effects of longitudinal bending stiffness on sprinting performance. Dissertation. Loughborough UniversityGoogle Scholar
  46. 46.
    Willwacher S, Konig M, Potthast W, Bruggemann G-P (2013) Does specific footwear facilitate energy storage and return at the metatarsophalangeal joint in running? J Appl Biomech 29:583–592Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    Willwacher S, Konig M, Braunstein B, Goldmann J-P, Bruggemann G-P (2014) The gearing function of running shoe longitudinal bending stiffness. Gait Posture 40:386–390CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. 48.
    Baroud G, Stefanyshyn DJ, Bellchamber T (1999). Performance enhancements of hockey sticks using numerical simulation. In: Herzog W, Jihna A (ed) Proceedings of the XVIth congress of the international society of biomechanics, p 827Google Scholar
  49. 49.
    Pearsall DJ, Montgomery DL, Rothsching N, Turcotte RA (1999) The influence of stick stiffness on the performance of ice hockey slapshots. Sports Eng 2:2–11CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. 50.
    Dabnichki P (1998) Biomechanical testing and sport equipment design. Sports Eng 1(2):93–105CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. 51.
    Winfield D, Tan T (1996) Optimization of the clubface shape of a golf driver to minimize dispersion of off-center shots. Comput Struct 45(6):1217–1224CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. 52.
    Worobets JT, Stefanyshyn DJ (2012) The influence of golf club shaft stiffness on clubhead kinematics at ball impact. Sport Biomech 11(2):239–248CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. 53.
    Pelz D (1990) A simple, scientific, shaft test: steel versus graphite. In: Cochran AJ (ed) Science and golf. E & FN Spon, London, pp 264–269Google Scholar
  54. 54.
    Stanbridge K, Jones R, Mitchell S (2004) The effect of shaft flexibility on junior golfers’ performance. J Sports Sci 22(5):457–464CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. 55.
    Knudson D (2008) Biomechanical aspects of the tennis racket. In: Hong Y, Bartlett R (ed) Handbook of biomechanics and human movement science, p 244Google Scholar
  56. 56.
    Kawazoe Y (2002) Mechanism of high-tech tennis rackets performance. Theor Appl Mech 51:177–187Google Scholar
  57. 57.
    Bahill A (2004) The ideal moment of inertia for a baseball or softball bat. IEEE Trans Syst Man Cybern A 34(2):197–204CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. 58.
    Nigg BM, Stergiou P, Cole G, Stefanyshyn DJ, Mundermann A, Humble N (2003) Effect of shoe inserts on kinematics, center of pressure and leg joint moments during running. Med Sci Sports Exerc 35(2):314–319CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. 59.
    Aubert X, Roquet ML, Van der Elst J (1951) The tension-length diagram of the frog’s sartorius muscle. Arch Physiol Biochem 59(2):239–241Google Scholar
  60. 60.
    Gordon AM, Huxley AF, Julian FJ (1966) The variation in isometric tension with sarcomere length in vertebrate muscle fibres. J Physiol 184(1):170–192CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. 61.
    Hamley EY, Thomas V (1967) Physiological and postural factors in the calibration of the bicycle ergometer. J Physiol 191(2):55P–56PGoogle Scholar
  62. 62.
    Nordeen-Snyder KS (1976) The effect of bicycle seat height variation upon oxygen consumption and lower limb kinematics. Med Sci Sports Exerc 9(2):113–117Google Scholar
  63. 63.
    Savelberg HHCM, Van de Port IG, Willems PJ (2003) Body configuration in cycling affects muscle recruitment and movement pattern. J Appl Biomech 19(4):310–324Google Scholar
  64. 64.
    Fenn WO, Marsh BS (1935) Muscular force at different speeds of shortening. J Physiol 85(3):277–297CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. 65.
    Hill AV (1938) The heat of shortening and the dynamic constants of muscle. Proc R Soc Lond B 126(843):136–195CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. 66.
    Herzog W (2007) Muscle. In: Nigg BM, Herzog W (eds) Biomechanics of the musculo-skeletal system, 3rd edn. Wiley, Toronto, p 205Google Scholar
  67. 67.
    Yoshihuku Y, Herzog W (1990) Optimal design parameters of the bicycle-rider system for maximal muscle power output. J Biomech 23(10):1069–1079CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. 68.
    Larkins C, Snabb TE (1999) Positive versus negative foot inclination for maximum height two-leg vertical jumps. Clin Biomech 14(5):321–328CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. 69.
    Clarke TE, Frederick EC, Cooper LB (1983) Effects of shoe cushioning upon ground reaction forces in running. Int J Sports Med 4:247–251CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. 70.
    Frederick EC, Clarke TE, Larsen JL, Cooper LB (1983) The effects of shoe cushioning on the oxygen demands of running. Biomechanical measurement of running shoe cushioning properties. In: Biomechanical aspects of sport shoes and playing surfaces. University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, pp 107–114Google Scholar
  71. 71.
    Kawakami Y, Kumagai K, Huijing PA, Hijikata T, Fukunaga T (2000) The length-force characteristics of human gastrocnemius and soleus muscles in vivo. In: Herzog W (ed) Skeletal muscle mechanics: from mechanisms to function. Wiley, Chichester, p 327Google Scholar
  72. 72.
    Maganaris CN (2003) Force-length characteristics of the in vivo human gastrocnemius muscle. Clin Anat 16(3):215–223CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. 73.
    van Ingen Schenau GJ, Bakker K (1980) A biomechanical model of speed skating. J Hum Movement Stud 6(1):8Google Scholar
  74. 74.
    van Ingen Schenau GV, Bobbert MF, Rozendal RH (1987) The unique action of bi-articular muscles in complex movements. J Anat 155:1Google Scholar
  75. 75.
    Bobbert MF, van Ingen Schenau GJ (1988) Coordination in vertical jumping. J Biomech 21(3):249–262CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. 76.
    de Koning JJ, Houdijk H, de Groot G, Bobbert MF (2000) From biomechanical theory to application in top sports: the klapskate story. J Biomech 33(10):1225–1229CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. 77.
    Houdijk H, De Koning JJ, de Groot GERT, Bobbert MF, van Ingen SG (2000) Push-off mechanics in speed skating with conventional skates and klapskates. Med Sci Sports Exerc 32(3):635–641CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. 78.
    Van Horne S, Stefanyshyn DJ (2005) Potential method of optimizing the klapskate hinge position in speed skating. J Appl Biomech 21(3):211–222Google Scholar
  79. 79.
    Carrier DR, Heglund NC, Earls KD (1994) Variable gearing during locomotion in the human musculoskeletal system. Science 265(5172):651–653CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. 80.
    Scholz MN, Bobbert MF, Van Soest AJ, Clark JR, van Heerden J (2008) Running biomechanics: shorter heels, better economy. J Exp Biol 211(20):3266–3271CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. 81.
    Mooses M, Mooses K, Haile DW, Durussel J, Kaasik P, Pitsiladis YP (2014) Dissociation between running economy and running performance in elite Kenyan distance runners. J Sports Sci 33(2):1–9Google Scholar

Copyright information

© International Sports Engineering Association 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Human Performance Lab, Faculty of KinesiologyUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada

Personalised recommendations