High-Tech Motion Tracking for Swimmers

Stroke technique for swimmers is important and new technology can help decode problems

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Great Britain’s national swim team has become very high-tech with a new motion-tracking device. Developers spent five years creating the most advanced waterproof, wireless transmitter in existence.

This new device, that fits in the palm of a hand, can detect subtle movements and accelerations then transmit that data in an instant to a laptop.

Not since the hand-held camcorder has swimming seen an advance in how to evaluate and change stroke technique.

"Swimming is great for your health."

Professor Paul Conway, director of Innovative Electronics Manufacturing Research Centre, Professor Andy West, from Loughborough University, and Professor Michael Caine, director of the Sports Technology Institute, teamed up to create the ultimate motion and tracking device for swimmers.

This technology was developed at Loughborough University’s Sports Technology Institute with the aid of British Swimming. It is a small tracking device that gathers information on the swimmer’s body position, acceleration and speed.

Coaches can look at the data on a laptop as it uploads poolside during practice for immediate feedback to the swimmer. The motion and tracking technology enables the coach to detect subtle problems and correct them on the spot.

The information gathered by the device can also be transmitted through the water with a wireless connection.

Professor Conway said, “Transmitting signals wirelessly is much more difficult through water than through air, especially in a swimming pool where there is so much water turbulence and noise from pool filtration systems.”

“Solving this problem was vital to the development of our multi-component motion tracking system.”

The device is a small, lightweight box measuring 80 x 50 mm and 12 mm thick. Inside the box are accelerometers, gyroscopes among other sensory technology.

The box is strapped to the swimmer’s back while they swim. The pool is also fitted with force-sensory detection gadgets on the starting blocks to gather starting data and touch pads at the end of the lane to gather data on the swimmer’s race finish.

Professor Caine said, “The new system has enabled elite training sessions to become even more productive. Ultimately, even small adjustments to technique can pay big dividends.”

“Our aim has been to provide a legacy for swimmers to fulfill their potential at this summer’s and future Olympics.”

It took the research team five years to develop this new technology. The use for this device in sports is great, but use in a medical setting, especially in physical therapy and rehabilitation, could be help a lot of people in their recovery process.

Funding for the research and technology was provided by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) with further assistance from UK Sport, Imperial College London and Queen Mary University of London.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 3, 2012
Last Updated:
December 6, 2012