The design and development of a wearable device to assess lower-limb impact dose during competitive netball play

Author: Anika Talukder

Talukder, Anika, 2020 The design and development of a wearable device to assess lower-limb impact dose during competitive netball play, Flinders University, College of Science and Engineering

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Netball is a prominent team sport, predominantly played by females worldwide ranging from leisure play to elite-level participation. Due to the high degree of speed, strength and repeated explosive loading to the lower limb placed during gameplay, high occurrence of lower limb injuries has been documented throughout the decades. The frequency of lower limb injuries can lead to a reduction in the level of sports activity, the need for medical treatment, and adverse social and economic effects for athletes. The current active injury countermeasures are either subjective training practices, that fail to quantify the loading of lower limbs, or wearable devices for impact monitoring which are laboratory-based, expensive and generally inaccessible to sub-elite players. Due to the lack of active monitoring of the lower limb impact forces in training and games, preventative measures unique to each player cannot be taken, contributing to the onset of chronic injuries. An initial review of the literature identified the growth of Inertial Measure Units (IMU) with the potential application for accelerometers to measure general energy expenditure and lower-limb shock attenuation. Therefore, the primary objective of this project was to contribute to the design and development of an inexpensive accelerometer-based wearable device that could quantify lower limb related impact dose, cumulative counts of low, moderate and high impact activities experienced during netball play. When an accelerometer-based device was placed on the shank of the participant, with the acceleration amplitude in the inferior/superior axis (AIS amplitude) to the shank was considered for the measurement of impact dose. Laboratory-based force plates (AMTI OR6-7) and accelerometers (Delsys Trigno AvantiTM Research+) were used to validate a commercially available IMU manufactured by Texas Instruments (SensorTag CC2650), to provide a measure of impact dose. When assessed against the requirements of range, sampling frequency and connectivity, significant data loss and connection issues were observed due to line of sight interruptions and data streaming restrictions of Bluetooth. Through in situ and laboratory-based studies, it was concluded that the SensorTag did not meet the required specifications of a practical and reliable wearable device to be used during netball gameplay and hence was deemed not viable. An alternative solution was then to create a working prototype using a Wi-Fi enabled device with a user interface, such that chosen accelerometer variable data could be displayed to the user. The working prototype was equipped with onboard processing capabilities, such that the maximum sampling frequency could be achieved, reducing data loss. Finally, a pilot correlation and feasibility study was conducted with the prototype to ensure the AIS amplitude could be correlated with Vertical Ground Reaction Force (VGRF) data obtained from AMTI OR6-7 plates. Subsequent testing with three participants enabled the correlation of AIS amplitude with the VGRF and activities performed by participants could be classified into low, moderate and high impact zones, providing a visual representation of movements to users.

Keywords: netball, impact, injury, lower limb, accelerometer, wearable, impact dose

Subject: Engineering thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2020
School: College of Science and Engineering
Supervisor: Dr David Hobbs