Sports goes high tech at Douglas College

Sport science instructor Lara Duke analyzes the motion of Dylan Bird-Sing
Sport science instructor Lara Duke analyzes the motion of Dylan Bird-Sing's golf swing in the new sports science lab at Douglas College.

If Douglas College varsity sports teams suddenly find themselves accumulating championship banners by the basketful, the secret to their success might be found in a 17x8-metre classroom on the third floor of the New Westminster campus.

That’s where the school recently opened a new sport science lab that will allow students to study the mechanics of human movement using high speed video cameras and six force plates installed into the floor.

The plates are linked to a laptop computer that uses special software to measure and visually depict the forces transmitted through an athlete’s body as they swing a golf club, fire a jump shot, throw a baseball. That data can then be combined with slow motion video of the athlete in action to find areas where they might be able to improve their performance or avoid injury, said Lara Duke, an instructor in the sport sciences department.

“It’s exhilarating to think about the hands-on opportunities our students will have with the equipment,” said Duke.

The school’s athletes and coaches are excited as well, said Duke. The research students conduct in the lab could be used to create training programs customized to each athlete.

That’s something Dylan Bird-Singh, a technician in the new lab, wishes he could have had access to when he was playing rugby in university.

“It comes down to efficiency of training,” said Bird-Singh. “They’ll be better athletes if they’re moving more efficiently.”

As the database of human movement research grows, the coaching and training of athletes is becoming more scientific, and less about old-school techniques and knowledge passed down through the generations, said Brian Storey, the chair of the sport science department.

“We’re taking the mystery out of movement,” said Storey. “The human eye can only take in so much.”

While many sport science departments have facilities that allow students to study movement, Douglas’ lab will be unique in that even undergrad students in the diploma and bachelor’s programs will have access to it, said Storey.

As more students become familiar with the equipment and pursue research projects, they’ll be able to pursue partnerships with sports groups in the community, said Duke. For instance, scientific data about lacrosse is almost non-existent and Salmonbellies at every level might benefit from an analysis of lacrosse shots.

“The space and equipment will open a lot of doors,” she said.


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