Physio’s Advice June / July 2019: Finding Balance

One of the perks of having his practice at the Sport Science Institute of South Africa is that he gets to see some really interesting sports science and sports medicine research as it unfolds. For this issue, RASHAAD JAKOET chatted to KIM BUCHHOLTZ on her research with mountain bikers.

Kim Buchholtz

SO I’VE NOTICED A FEW CYCLISTS ON THE BLUE FLOOR DOING SOME TESTING. WHAT’S HAPPENING?

I’m testing balance and agility in mountain bike riders and assessing how it is related to cycling performance and risk of falling. There are no previous tests described in the available literature, so I am developing these tests from scratch. The idea started from working at the Cape Epic for the last six or seven years. Lots of guys do not finish due to falling and getting badly injured, so the question is: why do people fall? It’s part of PHD thesis, and the first phase involved developing tests indoors and comparing them to an outdoor technical run (real world comparison). There was an additional phase in January, which involved following Epic cyclists from training through to competition. I’m now busy analysing the data. The final phase, which is yet to begin, looks at how fatigue (physical and mental) affects balance and agility performance on these same tests.

 

ANY BITS OF WISDOM PICKED UP DURING THE LITERATURE REVIEW?

There is very little published on MTB, particularly. MTB is the third most dangerous sport at the Olympics
(with the possibility of serious injury like concussion, head injuries and fractures) with more injuries than
road cycling. Most of the injuries in mountain biking are related to losing control of the bicycle, and falling
over the handle bars is the most common direction. We know that mountain bikers use the sensation of
where the body is related to the bike and the ground to adapt and change to the environment on which they are riding. This is different to road riding where you rely heavily on your vision to assess where you are going and to move out of the way of other objects and vehicles.

Balance – low speed and high – is an important part of an athlete’s training.

SO HOW MANY CYCLISTS TESTED?

29 in the first study (three tests each), seven in the Epic study (who we followed for eight weeks), and 20 more to come.

 

WHAT DO THE TESTS CONSIST OF?

The tests consisted of standing, static and four dynamic balance tests:

  • Standing: Single leg standing (not on the bike)
  • Y-balance test: Standing and moving along a
    predetermined line in a Y pattern on the floor
  • Static: Riding up to a point to slam on brakes, then
    hold position for as long as possible without going
    into track standing
  • Dynamic: Four different tests of increasing
    difficulty, including curved lines and ramps as slow
    and accurately as possible
  • Agility test: Moving around beacons with change of
    direction as fast as possible.

 

PRELIMINARY RESULTS 

There seems to be a big relationship between agility tests and outdoor performance and a reasonable
relationship between the dynamic tests and outdoor performance. It’s too early for causal relationship
between test and falling, hence fatigue tests being included soon. These tests may be used to predict
performance in technical riding rather than injury risk at this stage.

TAKE HOME ADVICE

Good performance in the tests relates to technical ability. Practising these tests may reduce risk of falling, but this is what we would really like to assess in the long run. On a field, with no rugby posts. The next phase started in early June, with data collection to be completed by the beginning of 2020, and graduation end of 2020 planned. If you are interested in discussing this further, please contact Kim at kim.buchholtz@uct.ac.za.

 

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