Date of Award


Document Type

Scholarly Project

Degree Name

Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)


Physical Therapy

First Advisor

Thomas Mohr


Biomechanics; Gymnastics -- physiology


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to analyze the joint angles and segmental motion of gymnasts during a back handspring in a tumbling series. The difference in lower extremity motion of the individual gymnasts with different levels of experience was compared.

Subjects: 13 gymnasts were recruited by gymnastics coaches at Red River Valley Gymnastics. Only subjects with qualifications of being competitive in USA Gymnastics program, varying in levels 5-10, were included. Subjects were required to be able to perform a tumbling series consisting of a round off, a back handspring, and a back tuck-salto on a floor exercise mat independently and in a safe manner.

Instrumentation: An eight camera, Vicon Motion System was used for the motion capture and the Vicon Workstation and Polygon 3.0 software was used for analysis and the generation of the reports.

Procedure: Prior to beginning the trials, each subject completed a warm-up, followed by a stretching routine. Thirty five reflective markers were placed on the specific bony prominences required by the computer modeling program. Each subject performed up to five trials of the tumbling series with up to a five minute rest period between each trial.

Data Analysis: A side view picture was obtained of the initial contact and the second contact of the lower extremities on the floor from the best trial of each subject. The pictures were analyzed qualitatively for the anterior and posterior relationship of the hip, knee, and ankle joint to one other, and to the different levels of the gymnasts.

Results and Discussion: In general the higher the level of the gymnast, the more ideal the relationship between the lower extremity segments. The more ideal relationship offered the gymnast better control and ability to obtain the desired motion to progress into the next skill being performed. The middle and lower level athlete's segmental relationships were such that there was not as much control which probably leads to unnecessary body motions, increasing muscle activity, and thus decreasing desired motion to progress into the next skill being performed. In general, the higher level gymnast's body position was closer to the ideal for receiving a higher score by gymnastics judges and the middle and lower level gymnasts had body positions that would normally relate to a lower score.

Conclusion and Clinical Implication: It was shown that the upper level gymnasts tended to have hip, knee and ankle positions, relative to each other, that were closest to ideal as compared to the middle and lower level gymnasts. It was also shown that motion analysis can be effective in developing a teaching tool for coaches to promote ideal technique.