Andy Murray’s absence from Wimbledon 2018 while he continues to recover from hip surgery is a reminder that many of the world’s top tennis players have to deal with long-term injuries over the course of their career.
However, in the future it may be possible for elite tennis players to prevent injury thanks to new technology developed by UK scientists.
Using a new type of motion capture technology sensor and their own software, researchers at Coventry University are able to give players a greater insight into how they move and the effect of their game on their bodies.
According to the university, the combination of the two technologies gives a detailed 3D picture of how people play tennis, right down to the angle of individual joints, the paths of their bodies and even the force exerted on their skeletons.
Players wear a special suit containing 17 sensors to capture detailed data which is then used to animate a 3D moving avatar of the player, their skeleton, joints and more than 600 of their muscles, as well as the movement of the ball and racquet.
This provides a range of information including the speeds of parts of the player’s body and the racquet, the weight placed on muscles and joints, and the sequence of movement the person goes through as they hit a ball.
As a result, coaches can gain a greater understanding of how the player moves, how the game affects their body and how their movement impacts on their game. They can then encourage the player to make adjustments in specific areas and record how that affects their game, as well as showing them how to help avoid injury.
What’s more, coaches can compare the movement of players of differing abilities so that one can learn from the other.
“This is the first time we have been able to use motion capture on the tennis court in a situation realistic to a tennis match. It gives a whole new world of opportunities for analysing how people play tennis,” said the developer of the software, Dr James Shippen, an expert in biomechanics at Coventry University’s Institute for Future Transport and Cities.
“Tennis coaches have always had to rely on their eye and experience to improve a player’s performance, but this gives them the evidence needed to understand how a player moves and how that might need to change.”