An Inertial Sensor-Based Method for Estimating the Athlete's Relative Joint Center Positions and Center of Mass Kinematics in Alpine Ski Racing

Front Physiol. 2017 Nov 1;8:850. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2017.00850. eCollection 2017.


For the purpose of gaining a deeper understanding of the relationship between external training load and health in competitive alpine skiing, an accurate and precise estimation of the athlete's kinematics is an essential methodological prerequisite. This study proposes an inertial sensor-based method to estimate the athlete's relative joint center positions and center of mass (CoM) kinematics in alpine skiing. Eleven inertial sensors were fixed to the lower and upper limbs, trunk, and head. The relative positions of the ankle, knee, hip, shoulder, elbow, and wrist joint centers, as well as the athlete's CoM kinematics were validated against a marker-based optoelectronic motion capture system during indoor carpet skiing. For all joints centers analyzed, position accuracy (mean error) was below 110 mm and precision (error standard deviation) was below 30 mm. CoM position accuracy and precision were 25.7 and 6.7 mm, respectively. Both the accuracy and precision of the system to estimate the distance between the ankle of the outside leg and CoM (measure quantifying the skier's overall vertical motion) were found to be below 11 mm. Some poorer accuracy and precision values (below 77 mm) were observed for the athlete's fore-aft position (i.e., the projection of the outer ankle-CoM vector onto the line corresponding to the projection of ski's longitudinal axis on the snow surface). In addition, the system was found to be sensitive enough to distinguish between different types of turns (wide/narrow). Thus, the method proposed in this paper may also provide a useful, pervasive way to monitor and control adverse external loading patterns that occur during regular on-snow training. Moreover, as demonstrated earlier, such an approach might have a certain potential to quantify competition time, movement repetitions and/or the accelerations acting on the different segments of the human body. However, prior to getting feasible for applications in daily training, future studies should primarily focus on a simplification of the sensor setup, as well as a fusion with global navigation satellite systems (i.e., the estimation of the absolute joint and CoM positions).

Keywords: alpine skiing; body model; center of mass; inertial sensors; movement analysis; posture estimation; validation.