Sacral acceleration can predict whole-body kinetics and stride kinematics across running speeds

PeerJ. 2021 Apr 12:9:e11199. doi: 10.7717/peerj.11199. eCollection 2021.

Abstract

Background: Stress fractures are injuries caused by repetitive loading during activities such as running. The application of advanced analytical methods such as machine learning to data from multiple wearable sensors has allowed for predictions of biomechanical variables associated with running-related injuries like stress fractures. However, it is unclear if data from a single wearable sensor can accurately estimate variables that characterize external loading during running such as peak vertical ground reaction force (vGRF), vertical impulse, and ground contact time. Predicting these biomechanical variables with a single wearable sensor could allow researchers, clinicians, and coaches to longitudinally monitor biomechanical running-related injury risk factors without expensive force-measuring equipment.

Purpose: We quantified the accuracy of applying quantile regression forest (QRF) and linear regression (LR) models to sacral-mounted accelerometer data to predict peak vGRF, vertical impulse, and ground contact time across a range of running speeds.

Methods: Thirty-seven collegiate cross country runners (24 females, 13 males) ran on a force-measuring treadmill at 3.8-5.4 m/s while wearing an accelerometer clipped posteriorly to the waistband of their running shorts. We cross-validated QRF and LR models by training them on acceleration data, running speed, step frequency, and body mass as predictor variables. Trained models were then used to predict peak vGRF, vertical impulse, and contact time. We compared predicted values to those calculated from a force-measuring treadmill on a subset of data (n = 9) withheld during model training. We quantified prediction accuracy by calculating the root mean square error (RMSE) and mean absolute percentage error (MAPE).

Results: The QRF model predicted peak vGRF with a RMSE of 0.150 body weights (BW) and MAPE of 4.27 ± 2.85%, predicted vertical impulse with a RMSE of 0.004 BW*s and MAPE of 0.80 ± 0.91%, and predicted contact time with a RMSE of 0.011 s and MAPE of 4.68 ± 3.00%. The LR model predicted peak vGRF with a RMSE of 0.139 BW and MAPE of 4.04 ± 2.57%, predicted vertical impulse with a RMSE of 0.002 BW*s and MAPE of 0.50 ± 0.42%, and predicted contact time with a RMSE of 0.008 s and MAPE of 3.50 ± 2.27%. There were no statistically significant differences between QRF and LR model prediction MAPE for peak vGRF (p = 0.549) or vertical impulse (p = 0.073), but the LR model's MAPE for contact time was significantly lower than the QRF model's MAPE (p = 0.0497).

Conclusions: Our findings indicate that the QRF and LR models can accurately predict peak vGRF, vertical impulse, and contact time (MAPE < 5%) from a single sacral-mounted accelerometer across a range of running speeds. These findings may be beneficial for researchers, clinicians, or coaches seeking to monitor running-related injury risk factors without force-measuring equipment.

Keywords: Biomechanics; Ground reaction force; Inertial measurement unit; Injury; Machine learning; Stress fracture.

Grants and funding

This work was supported by the PAC-12 Student-Athlete Health and Well-Being Grant Program (#3-03_PAC-12-Oregon-Hahn-17-02). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.