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Biomechanics of foot function in relation to sports performance

Smith, G (2012) Biomechanics of foot function in relation to sports performance. Doctoral thesis, Liverpool John Moores University.

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The foot forms the dynamic base upon which a sprinter functions. The actions that occur within the foot are of critical importance to the task of sprint running, since they influence the functional mechanisms of the entire body and especially the lower extremity. The aim of this research was to evaluate how foot function may contribute to sprinting performance and the interaction between the mechanical properties of sprinting footwear and performance, with a focus on the role of the metatarsophalangeal joint (MPJ). Currently, little is known about the effect of footwear upon the normal biomechanical function of the MPJ during sprinting, as this joint has often been neglected in previous biomechanical studies of lower limb energetics. A series of empirical and theoretical investigations were therefore undertaken to advance the understanding in this area. The initial study revealed the importance of two important methodological issues on the analysis of MPJ function during sprinting. Appropriate MPJ axes representation and appropriate data processing procedures are vital to ensure the accurate assessment of joint kinetics. Empirical investigations on eight trained sprinters performing maximal sprint trials, both in barefoot and sprint spike conditions determined normal patterns of foot behaviour and the role of the MPJ during sprinting. Several aspects of foot function, including kinematic, kinetic and pressure characteristics, were determined. Sprint spikes reduced MPJ range of motion and dorsiflexion velocity but increased total energy generated during the push-off phase, biomechanical measures which may be linked to sprinting performance. To investigate whether manipulations in the mechanical properties of sprinting footwear may influence sprinting performance and MPJ function, sprint spikes with insoles of varying stiffness's were manufactured and mechanically tested. For a group of sprinters increasing the sprint spike stiffness did not elicit an improved sprinting performance. Due to the high variability between athletes and highly individualised responses to perturbations in footwear a single- subject analyses was undertaken. This study demonstrated that individual sprinting performance may be improved by implementation of relevant shoe mechanical characteristics. Whilst varying the mechanical characteristics of sprint spikes clearly showed controlling influences over the natural motion of the MPJ, the relatively minimal effect on the resultant MPJ energetics, potentially suggests that sprint spikes do not minimise energy loss during sprinting. The combined empirical and theoretical understanding therefore highlighted several aspects of MPJ function which could be altered by footwear in an attempt to improve sprint running performance.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: Q Science > QP Physiology
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC1200 Sports Medicine
Divisions: Sport & Exercise Sciences
Date Deposited: 29 Mar 2017 10:44
Last Modified: 03 Sep 2021 23:30
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/6123
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