Reliability of the elliptical zone method of estimating body segment parameters of swimmers

Ross H. Sanders, Chuang-Yuan Chiu, Tomohiro Gonjo, Jacki Thow, Nuno Oliveira, Stelios G. Psycharakis, Carl J. Payton, Carla B. McCabe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Due to the difficulty of measuring forces and torques acting on a swimmer during mid-pool swimming, an inverse dynamics approach is required. Personalised body segment parameter (BSP) data enabling calculation of net forces and torques can be obtained using the elliptical zone method. The purpose of this study was to establish the reliability of estimating BSP data of swimmers by the elliptical zone method with segment outlines being traced manually on a personal computer screen. Five assessors digitised the segment landmarks and traced the body segments from front and side view digital photographs of 11 single arm amputee swimmers. Each swimmer was assessed five times by each of the five assessors. The order was fully randomised. Within assessor variability was less than 5% for the segment centre of mass position of all segments, for segment length except the neck (5.2%), and for segment mass except neck (11.9%), hands (Left: 8.1%; Right: 5.8%) and feet (Left: 7.3%; Right: 7.3%). Analysis of mean variability within and between assessors indicated that between assessor variability was generally as large or larger than within assessor variability. Consequently it is recommended that when seeking personalised BSP data to maximise the accuracy of derived kinetics and sensitivity for longitudinal and bilateral within-subject comparisons the individual should be assessed by the same assessor with mean values obtained from five repeat digitisations. This study established that using the elliptical zone method using E-Zone software is a reliable and convenient way of obtaining personalised BSP data for use in analysis of swimming. Key pointsA unique (not been attempted previously) study of reliability of calculating personalised Body Segment Parameter (BSP) data using the elliptical zone methodEstablishes benchmark data regarding the reliability of BSP data for comparison with emerging technologies for obtaining personalised BSP data non-invasively.Provides a description and guidelines for good practice for maximising the accuracy of derived kinematics and kinetics in swimming.The method of body modelling described can also be applied to studies in other sports and in assessing change in health status related to body shape characteristics for sport and non-sport populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-224
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Sports Science and Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2015


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