Research examines calf muscles of race walkers
The EU funded collaborative project between Leeds Beckett and the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland took place last month at our Biomechanics laboratory in Headingley Campus. In particular, a team of researchers coordinated by Principal Lecturer in Sport Biomechanics, Dr Athanassios Bissas, examined the function of muscles and tendons of the lower leg during race walking.
The study adopted a novel ultrasound method, developed and performed by Dr Neil Cronin from the University of Jyvaskyla) to study the fibre behaviour of the calf muscles at different walking and running speeds. This information was combined with electromyography and high-speed video recording to provide a clearer understanding of how the calf muscles behave during gait. The research team also comprised Senior Lecturer in Sport Biomechanics at Leeds Beckett, Dr Brian Hanley, who has a significant international record of publications in the race walking field.
The project recruited elite race walkers from England and Ireland coached by national coaches Dr Andi Drake and Michael Lane respectively. The researchers also had the opportunity to test Masters Athletes including Ian McCombie, Commonwealth medal winner (1986, 1990), Olympic Games Finalist (1984, 1988) and World Athletics Championships Finalist (1983-1991). Ian still holds the GB record for the 20km race walk since the Seoul 1988 Olympics.
Speaking about the research project Dr Bissas commented: “A developing collaboration with the Department of Biology and Physical Activity of the University of Jyvaskyla (Finland) and in particular with their Biomechanics department commenced this year with a visit by Dr Neil Cronin to Leeds Beckett to conduct this joint study on musculotendon (MST) function by using our recently purchased ultrasound scanner. It is important to mention that this particular establishment is one of the world-leading institutions in the area of locomotion and MST function and it has been the domain for eminent world-class scholars such as Professor Paavo Komi. Our collaborative plans also include two further joint projects for 2015-17 designed to collect MST data from special populations in Greece (army cadets) and Botswana (barefoot runners) intercepted by a visit to Jyvaskyla by myself.
“To that end we are developing the necessary infrastructure that will allows us to perform such advanced measurements away from the laboratory without compromising the integrity of our measurement techniques and research methods.
“This is a strategic movement for Leeds Beckett Biomechanics which will strengthen our neuromuscular research theme as we will be given the opportunity to work with Jyvaskyla and become acquainted with groundbreaking laboratory techniques (e.g. tendon imaging) not fully possessed by other UK and European institutions, and to be at the core of world class research with a strategic vision to publish our findings in esteemed clinical journals in time for the next Research Excellence Framework in 2020.”