On January 16 and 17, 2019, the Université Paris-Saclay's Second International Workshop of the School of Sport Sciences and Human Motion Analysis took place at the Department of Sciences and Techniques of Sports and Physical Activities at Université Paris-Sud. Dedicated to physical ergonomics and human motion analysis, this workshop was a big success. Three international researchers talked about their exciting research projects to the 120 students and 30 researchers in attendance.
Peter Keir, from McMaster University (Canada), discussed his research on a major problem in today's society: musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) and the associated pain – sometimes acute – caused by repeated movements made in poor postures. One of the most widespread MSDs is carpal tunnel syndrome, due to the median nerve compression within the wrist area where the median nerve and tendons are gliding.
Peter Keir's team set out to learn more about what causes this type of injury. They employed infrared cameras to observe precise gestures made by subjects, ultrasound to analyze blood flow velocity for different hand and finger movements varying in angle and force. They even engaged in cadaveric research to measure the frictional forces in the carpal tunnel, pulling the tendons this way and that to measure the resistance forces. A computer simulation revealed that certain movements cause deformation of the carpal tunnel and that certain wrist postures cause a decrease in tunnel volume, which helps explain the increase in frictional forces affecting the nerve and causing pain.
The second speaker, Markus Miezal from the Technische Universität Kaiserslautern (Germany), jumped around the platform. Neither mad professor nor Michael Jackson wannabe, he was giving a scientific demonstration of the efficiency of his motion sensor, called inertial measurement units, which reproduced every move he made – even spinning around – on the screen in real time.
"Motion sensors using cameras, optical sensors and force sensors already exist," he pointed out. "They yield precise and personalized observations. Unfortunately, they take a long time to install and can only be used in a limited space. It also takes a long time to process their data. Our goal is to create simpler motion analysis methods that are precise, reproducible and personalized."
Next, Lars Roepstorff of Uppsala Universitet (Sweden) reported on his work in motion analysis, which is even more complex because it focuses on horses and riders. He is obliged to develop his own instruments, because none of the existing ones are suitable, given the horses' weight. "We're seeking to detect asymmetry in horses, which is very hard to spot with the human eye. When a horse has a painful joint, it compensates by putting more weight on the non-injured legs. Asymmetries inferior to 25% are very hard to detect, even for professionals, but it is very important to spot them. That way, one can identify which joint needs care."
Lars Roepstorff is also interested in the relationship between horse and rider, in the rider's postures and how the rider compensates for the movements of the horse. By means of 3D optoelectronic markers placed on horses and riders, he has shown that each rider adopts a personal strategy. His research is bound to interest the world of horse racing!
We asked Michel-Ange Amorim, director of the CIAMS laboratory (Université Paris-Sud) dedicated to complexity, innovations, motor and sports activities, to answer three questions.
What are the main areas of study at your laboratory?
M-A. A.: Our research falls into two categories, each with its own research team. One team ("MHAPS" - human motion, adaptation and sports performance) deals with the life sciences, neuroscience, physiology and motor control. The other team ("SPOTS" - sports, policy and social change) is more oriented towards social science and tackles topics like management, marketing and culture in the realm of sports. Eventually, the plan is to adopt an even more cross-disciplinary approach, for instance, to develop video games that encourage physical exercise, so called exergames (e.g. for the wii console). The work of this team covers sports performance as well as social science (e.g. the effects of sports on the elderly, from the perspective of social integration or intergenerational relations).
Do you work with business and industry?
M-A.A.: Yes, but not enough! We would like to develop this type of collaboration further. For instance, we have a thesis underway with IBM on stress regulation and emotion management. According to judo expert Teddy Riner, 60% of sports performance is in the mind! Studies on stress management in sports may have workplace applications. In addition, connected devices can help reduce stress by measuring it and making recommendations.
How can research be further improved?
M-A.A.: By working more closely together. For instance, many prototypes invented by engineers often sit and collect dust, because they do not match user needs. This problem can be avoided by consulting researchers in human movement and social sciences during the design phase. For this reason, we have created a cluster of 15 research centers specialized in human movement sciences, including those of universities and top engineering schools (e.g. CentraleSupélec). This cluster, known as Fédev, is a perfect example of what Université Paris-Saclay is all about.