Sports: At Coto Research Center

Article. Sports: At Coto Research Center

At Coto Research Center, $3 million worth of computer technology helps athletes improve abilities.

Sky Delta Air Lines Magazine

Published on Friday, July 2, 1982 by Unknown

JULY 1982


MODE: Sports

At Coto Research Center, $3 million worth of computer technology helps athletes improve abilities.

Power hitters slugging 80 homers a season … running backs rushing for 3,000 yards a year … milers streaking across the finish line in 3:30 … pole vaulters clearing the bar at 20 feet.

These unparalleled sports achievements are within the grasp of athletes who seek greatness and goals through the new science of biomechanics: the computer analysis of athletic motion.

In its infancy, biomechanics is already doing more to raise the limits of human performance than all the steroids ever injected. And by the year 2000, computerized exercise equipment and ultra-sophisticated measuring devices will be as much a part of the training room, clubhouse and

health spa as Nautilus equipment is now.

“Anything you can do, you can do better through biomechanics – even if you’re a superstar,” declares Gideon Ariel, the Vince Lombardi of biomechanics. “Some superstars could do 50 percent better.”

That’s because the John McEnroes, Walter Paytons and Sugar Ray Leonards of today simply haven’t reached their physical limits yet. But tomorrow’s stars will approach the threshold of their own athletic perfection through biomechanics, says Ariel.

He heads the Coto Research Center in Coto de Caza, California, a sports clinic which relies on $3 million worth of computer technology to enhance athletes’

physical rehabilitation and improve the performance.

Experts like Ariel film an athlete in ac tion using highspeed movies which at converted to frames of stick figures fc computer analysis. Detailed calculation then are made of body movement, timin and forces that create or result fror movement.

The information gained can do more t improve performance than weeks of prat tice. For example, Ariel’s compute showed that U.S. Olympic discus throwe Mac Wilkins was not striding right, causing his front leg to absorb energy that coul~ otherwise be utilized in his throw. Wilkin changed his stride and shattered the worl+ record at the time by nearly six feet.

When Jimmy Connors’ serve was corn puter analyzed, Ariel discovered that th+ tennis star’s feet were leaving the groun+ at a crucial moment, reducing the velocit of his serve by 20 miles per hour. Connor made the necessary adjustments an+ sped up his serve.

The feats of today’s stars could seen commonplace by the year 2000, says Bol Ward, conditioning coach for the Dalla: Cowboys. “If we do a biomechanic anal ysis on (running back) Tony Dorsett an+ find he’s playing at only 60 percent of hi: physical capabilities, we’d help him make ; few adjustments. Then there’d be no rea son why he couldn’t rush for 3,000 yards + season.

“Computers will help improve the qualit of players and, as a result, there isn’t ; single record that couldn’t be broken.”

Although biomechanics will identif� weaknesses and assign proper training instructions and adjustments, it cannc measure one very important factor: th+ athlete’s state of mind. “Biomechanic can’t consider his psychological makeup desire to achieve or other outside factor which could affect performance,” admit: Ariel.

Nevertheless, Ariel, who is chairman c the Biomechanical Committee of the U.S Olympic Committee, believes the nev science will help the athlete “to the poir where the body is performing at its peak when the anatomical structure can’t per form any better.”

Biomechanics will assist the athlete ii another way – improved sports equip ment. “Bugging” golf clubs, tennis racquet and ski poles with electronic sensors i already spurring new designs and manu

S-6 SKY July 1982

“Computers will help improve the quality of players and,

as a result, there isn’t a single record that couldn’t be broken.’

facturing techniques for sports equipment. Balls will bounce truer. Clubs will swing more effortlessly. Shoes will absorb more shock.

“Biomechanics will help create better equipment to reduce injuries and improve performance, and thus give the athlete a small but vital edge,” said Dr. Peter Cavanagh, professor of biomechanics at Penn State University.

If a newly-designed shoe could make a marathon runner one-half of one percent more efficient, it could turn him from an also-ran into a champion, Dr. Cavanagh


But you won’t have to be in the starting backfield of the San Francisco FortyNiners or another Bruce Jenner to take advantage of biomechanics.

As a weekend athlete in the year 2001, you can head for the nearest biomechanics analysis center where your athletic performance and movements are measured and problems diagnosed by com

puter. Armed with this knowledge, you make some simple adjustments and – BINGO! You serve harder, throw faster or drive a golf ball further.

Even if your only workout is with a can of beer while watching sports on TV, you will experience the effects on sports of this technology in the next century. Sports coverage as you know it today will be as antiquated as was listening to a staticmarred broadcast of the 1940 World Series on a Crosley.

Joseph Deken, author of The Electronic Cottage, predicts: “The home computer user’s display screen would provide a bank of selectable channels to display information from perhaps 30 simultaneous ‘chalk talks: As an added feature to sports coverage, extra channels could bring in a play-by-play transcript of the game, electronic ‘scratch-pads’ from coaches who diagram and analyze key plays and statistical data and summaries with predictions of all sorts of odds.”

Computers will play another big role i the sports scene – as a special assistar coach. Computers already help colleg and pro teams in processing everythin from scouting reports and draft picks t, pass patterns. But in the near future, computer technician might well be thi most valuable member of the team.

With the tickling of his computer key board, for example, the technician coul~ help vault a cellar-dwelling baseball tean into a pennant contender, claims Earn shaw Cook, co-author of Percentage Baseball and the Computer.

After being fed more than 750,000 sta

tistics from about 12,000 games, Cook’

computer came up with this 21st Centur

baseball strategy: Scrap the sacrifice bur

and go with the hit-and-run instead. NevE

steal with two outs nor issue an intention,

walk. Start the game with a relief pitchE

for the first two innings, then brig, ‘n th

regular starter for the next five and finis

Continued next pag


Tennis pro Vic Braden, hooked to a computer by electrodes, demonstrates how movement and muscle response can be tested to improve play.

SKY July 1982 S-:

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Continued from page S-7

off the final two innings with another reliever. Arrange the batting order according to the players’ batting average, leading off with the best.

Purists may moan like a sore-armed pitcher, but computers are here to stay. Says Dr. Deken, “There’s no reason why any high school football coach can’t use computer technology to adapt his team’s play offensively and defensively to the analyzed strengths and weaknesses and patterns of the opponent.

The Dallas Cowboys are doing just that

and have been for some time. “Pro teams will have to go the way of the Cowboys if they want to win,” says Gideon Ariel. “We’ve just developed a program called formation analysis. The computer detects weaknesses in the opposing team based on the position of the player, his physical strength and speed and reaction time. The computer simulates in game conditions how the opposing player will move and react on a given play.”

The Cowboys’ conditioning coach, Bob Ward, doubts that computers will really take over the game. “We’ll use them to develop better game plans and educate our players about the opposing team. But in the final analysis, computers don’t play the game. Humans do – and always will.”

– Allan Zullo

– seam a~ 886868+