Northern Michigan University faculty and student researchers are testing a regional company's new Zone One basketball flooring system to determine whether its design goals of enhancing athletes' safety, performance and comfort are supported by science.
NMU's School of Health and Human Performance is partnering with Action Floor Systems based in Mercer, Wis., on the project.
“On average, a basketball player will perform 70 or more jumps in a game,” said Assistant Professor Matt Kilgas. “That's not even counting practices. Those impact forces are considerable—multiple times a player's body weight. If athletes are jumping and landing over and over again, it can lead to overuse injuries to the knee and ankle in particular because those joints are constantly dealing with repetitive, high-impact forces.”
Researchers are measuring the peak force upon landing, along with the impulse, or the change in momentum. They also use a 2D camera to monitor the joint angles of the ankle, knee and hip upon landing to see if they vary on different maple systems.
Basketball floors are not typically tested with human subjects, Kilgas added. Action Floor Systems' National Sales and Marketing Manager Karl Borree is a 1986 NMU alumnus with degrees in both economics and mass communication. One of his children now attends his alma mater.
Borree approached the School of Health and Human Performance about engaging in a company-sponsored research project to collect and analyze data that will enable the company to continue utilizing the latest cutting-edge technology.
“This research will not only help Action Floor Systems better serve its customer base, but it will help the sports flooring industry as a whole,” he added.
Three NMU Health and Human Performance faculty members with complementary areas of expertise are collaborating on the project. Kilgas is leading the data collection, recruiting participants of college age who are recreationally active. Lukas Klawitter set up the equipment and upgraded the software. He has also invested much time in analyzing and interpreting data off the force plate in order for colleague Megan Nelson to do the post-collection analysis. One graduate student and five undergraduates are actively assisting the faculty mentors, gaining real-world research experience.
Graduate student Kyle Hartzell said he is fortunate to be involved in all aspects of the study. He sat in on the initial meeting with Action Floor Systems representatives to discuss the project. He has also helped with the entire data collection process, from recruiting participants and guiding them through the protocol to using the force plate software to pull the variables required for analysis.
“The main reason I chose to pursue my graduate degree was to get involved with projects like this in order to further my knowledge of the field, set myself up for continued success throughout my career, and continue to improve the bridge connecting the scientific and practical application sides of the field,” he said. “Matt, Lukus and Megan are very intelligent and challenge me to think more scientifically and use my knowledge in a lab setting. This project has provided a great opportunity for me to grow my knowledge in the variety of impacts that different playing surfaces have on individuals. It will allow me to carry this over to my every day job of programming for and training athletes to help them see success in their respective sports.”
Hartzell and other research group members will co-author a paper on whether there is a reduction in impact forces with the new flooring and, if so, whether that results in a tradeoff related to performance. Regardless of the findings, they plan to submit it for publication and for a scientific poster presentation at a national research conference. Funding for student travel to attend the conference is included in Action Floor Systems' support of the project. Data collection is scheduled to be completed by the end of January.
Learn more about NMU's School of Health and Human Performance programs here. Find more information on Action Floor Systems, which was established in 1988 and is a global leader in the supply of premium sports flooring systems, here.