Salford collaborate with leading sports technology and hardware manufacturer

Categories: School of Health and Society

With support from industry leader Hawkin Dynamics, the University of Salford will be conducting the largest force plate research project ever conducted in professional sport, with involvement of sports clubs from all over the world. 

Force plate

Force plates are becoming increasingly central to routine fitness testing of elite athletes, as they generate very detailed information on how athletes respond to training and competition, as well as how they recover in-between performances. The world’s first wireless dual force plate system, controlled via an Android application and analysed via cloud-driven software, was recently developed by Hawkin Dynamics, who are based in Portland, Maine, USA.

This is a huge step forward for force plate technology, as they are usually cumbersome wired systems that require a computer to acquire and analyse the data. Subsequently, Hawkin Dynamics force plates and software has been purchased by many strength and conditioning practitioners who collectively work with thousands of elite athletes around the world, enabling fast testing and immediate feedback.

Dr John McMahon from the University of Salford, along with Dr Paul Comfort and Dr Paul Jones, also from Salford, have conducted force plate testing of athletes over the past decade as part of the sport and exercise research group. Much of the force plate research produced from Salford has informed industry-wide testing protocols and has influenced some of Hawkin Dynamics’ data analysis procedures to date.

When Dr John McMahon emailed Hawkin Dynamics CEO, Ben Watson, to inform him about the formal research partnerships available at the University of Salford, he immediately expressed his interest in the industry sponsored PhD option. Just four-months later (April 2021), Hawkin Dynamics and the University of Salford formed a partnership and advertised a fully funded PhD opportunity.

The PhD, supervised by Dr John McMahon, co-supervised by Dr Paul Comfort and industry supervised by Dr Pete Mundy, who graduated from the University of Salford in 2011 with a BSc (Hons) in Applied Sports Science and now works as the Chief Research Officer at Hawkin Dynamics, commenced in May 2021, with student Andy Badby (who also attained a BSc and MSc at Salford) leading the research.

The PhD aims to develop and evaluate a force plate testing battery for monitoring lower body neuromuscular function in elite athletes. This will be achieved by four main studies that address either the development or the evaluation aspects of the research and will involve hundreds of elite athletes from several professional sports teams. The work conducted over the next four years will directly feedback on and inform Hawkin Dynamics’ protocols, data analysis and athlete feedback reports and will contribute to industry standards regarding force plate testing in sport.

Dr John McMahon, Lecturer in Sports Biomechanics & Strength at the University of Salford, said: “This is a fantastic funded research project that is very relevant to practitioners working in professional sport. Hawkin Dynamics have always been great supporters of the force plate research that we do here at Salford and we’re very grateful that they have chosen to work with us over the next four years.

“The scale of this project is only possible because of how sophisticated the Hawkin Dynamics hardware and software is, meaning that data can be collected in all manner of professional sports settings and uploaded to the cloud sever for large-scale analysis.

“The PhD should permit the generation of sport-, age- and position-specific performance standards for a range of relevant force plate tests, which is currently missing from this area of research. Ultimately, this work will not only benefit Hawkin Dynamics and their customers, but also sports practitioners who routinely use other force plates to test their athletes.”

Ben Watson, Hawkin Dynamics CEO commented on the partnership: “When John mentioned the potential to collaborate on a funded PhD, it was a no-brainer for us. For several years we have leaned on the Salford team’s applied research to assist in our development, so the opportunity to work directly with this group on a large-scale project was incredibly exciting.

“As our company has grown, we’ve worked hard to stay grounded in the latest research. Our partnership with Salford ensures that our research-led approach will continue for many years.

“At its core, this project presents an opportunity to answer some very important questions about the nature of measurement technology and its application in the real-world sport setting. Throughout the entire process the Salford staff have been incredible to work with, and we are deeply grateful for the opportunity.” 

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