Amputee sprinters can improve times with stiffer prostheses - study

2016-02-29 16:45

Cape Town - Stiffer prostheses could help lower limb amputee sprinters improve their times, according to research by a Stellenbosch University sports scientist.

Athletes competing in the 400m sprint at this year’s Rio Paralympics could do better by using more solid models, Dr Lara Grobler concluded in her recent doctoral study, according to a statement issued by the university. 

She is from the university’s sport physiology laboratory, in the department of sport science.

Her study focused on the mechanical aspects of running-specific prostheses and their effects on sprinting performance. It focused on longer sprints.

It was unclear if her findings stretched to shorter sprints as no studies had yet been done.

Grobler tested eight different prostheses, including models specifically designed for running, by attaching them to a piece of gym equipment, loading the machine with weight and dropping it onto a force plate. A high-speed camera recorded the drop and the hops the prostheses made. 

She looked at factors like the length of time the prosthetic foot was in contact with the ground, length of time it was in the air after hopping off the ground, and the compression of the artificial limb.

Her findings showed a difference in the stiffness between the two models.

When the models were tested on an athlete with a lower-limb amputation, stiffer prostheses resulted in decreased work time and muscle fatigue.

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