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Volleyball Team Improves their Game with Biomechanics Technology

The University of Northern Colorado’s volleyball team is gaining insights on how to improve their off-season training programs with the assistance of three-dimensional motion-capture technology.

November 19, 2018

The University of Northern Colorado’s volleyball team is gaining insights on how to improve their off-season training programs with the assistance of three-dimensional motion-capture technology.

Volleyball team members were asked to move and jump in a real-time setting to better understand if they were getting a return with the programs they’re using to train.

“We used equipment in our lab including motion-capture and force plates to capture how they’re moving,” said Otto Buchholz, a UNC Sport and Exercise Science doctoral student who works in the lab. “These special instruments — commonly used to develop video games and virtual reality — quantify the motions and forces while they’re jumping and landing; this technology we use in the lab, you see in Hollywood all the time.”

After the technology measures where their body positions are in the three-dimensional space, Buchholz, along with UNC Sport and Exercise Science students Shane Murphy and Nathan Robey, can then reconstruct them on a computer.


(The video above shows a lateral shuffle assessment to understand the volleyball player's ability to move side-to-side, which is especially important for front-row hitters and blockers.)

UNC Professor of Sport and Exercise Science Jeremy Smith, Ph.D., said the team approached him and the Biomechanics Lab to conduct these assessments. One assessment was done in the spring as the team was transitioning into their summer program, and the second one was conducted right before their fall season started to understand if there were any improvements from the summer training. This is especially helpful for UNC Volleyball Strength and Conditioning Coach, Jimmy Edel.

“Jeremy, and his team of students, are helping me analyze and get a better picture of how our girls move when jumping and what type of asymmetries they have when doing so,” said Edel. “They are helping me understand what we may be missing in some of their training, specifically what I need to address with individual girls.”

The equipment used to determine any potential improvements includes the Vicon Nexus software, 10 cameras and an AMTI force-sensing treadmill, all of which import movement and other data into a computer for analyses. The research team is currently in the final stages of understanding these outputs.

One discovery involved a few team members’ knee position and its range of motion. Edel believes they need to add more “hip strengthening and single leg plyometric/balance exercise,” and he expects additional results as he and his team become more involved with the lab.

“We just started this relationship, so our capabilities to dive deeper into how our athletes function is endless,” said Edel. “I look forward to continuing the relationship so both sides can get useful information to better each respective department.”

As of now, volleyball is the only UNC sports team that Smith and his doctoral students are working with. They’re planning on setting up a yearly schedule to conduct these tests with the team in their off-seasons to help further guide their training.

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