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A pair of sports compression tights that can calculate the risk of muscle and knee injury was one of the innovative sporting innovations presented by researchers at a recent sports technology conference in Barcelona, Spain.
Often worn by long-distance runners, cyclists and football players, compression garments reduce muscle fatigue and help to draw away sweat.
The form-fitting apparel, which is usually made of spandex, is highly popular and has become an essential training tool by all levels of athletes.
Now RMIT researchers have embedded technology into a pair of compression tights that tells the wearer the amount of force on the leg muscles and cruciate ligaments in the knees during exercise.
Key measurements, such as muscle activation, ligament loading and imbalances, are returned instantly to the individual via a connected smart device.
The patented technology developed by PhD researcher Aaron Belbasis and his supervisor Professor Franz Konstantin Fuss was among 14 RMIT-developed sports technologies showcased at the 7th Asia-Pacific Congress on Sports Technology.
Belbasis, a researcher for the RMIT School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, said the technology had the potential to be an off-the-shelf solution to avoid common lower body soft-tissue injuries.
“Currently, the only other way to measure the force on the cruciate ligaments during exercise is to strap yourself to bulky lab-based equipment such as an isokinetic dynamometer or to rely on static force plates,” he said.
“A knee injury can be a nightmare for an athlete, with damage to the anterior or posterior cruciate ligament one of the most common causes.
“It usually means you’re out of action for several months as well as out-of-pocket for a considerable amount, if surgery is required.”
Belbasis said the technology indicated the force on the cruciate ligaments by collecting data on the force of the quadriceps, hamstrings as well as the respective angle of the knee.
“It means that athletes can gain added intelligence on what loading their muscles experience during each workout; whether that’s for a sustained and healthy recovery from injury, or helping to increase performance through informed decisions and technique improvement,” he said.
But Belbasis emphasised the work was in developing the technology, not creating a new type of garment.
“The measurement system we’re using is based on our inexpensive sensor-less sensing solution that is able to withstand the rigours of athletic use, calibrated extensively and then attached to readily available consumer compression garments,” he said.
And what to expect once the research is complete?
“We’re currently in discussions with major sporting brands interested in using this technology to offer smart sporting garments to their customers,” he said.
“It’s innovative clothing that helps prevent injuries – a desirable option for both professional athletes and sporting enthusiasts.”
Professor Fuss, Aaron's PhD supervisor and Chair of the Scientific Committee of the 7th Asia-Pacific Congress on Sports Technology explained that the smart compression garment is a game-changer technology and the first device for real-time cruciate ligament monitoring.
"We’re using the same sensor-less sensing technology developed by us in-house for other solutions, such as the smart insole and the smart soccer boot,” Fuss said.
At the sports technology conference in Barcelona, Belbasis received the award for innovation by a young academic.