Studies performed at Bournemouth University may be shedding some light on the impact of lower-limb prosthetics on competitive running sports.

According to a news release from Bournemouth University, recent studies looked at whether athletes with prosthetics are at an unfair advantage when running against athletes without prosthetics.

The last two Olympic Games in both Beijing and London have been controversial regarding the role of prosthetics. In 2008, South African Oscar Pistorius ran against able-bodied athletes and obtained an Olympic Qualification time in the 400m. In 2012, he participated in both the Olympic and Paralympic Games in the same year, the release explains.

Study researcher Hossein Hassani, PhD, says, in the release, “These prostheses typically involve the use of composite ‘c’ or ‘j’ shaped prostheses and whilst often dubbed ‘Cheetahs’ by the media, are merely a form of energy storage and return springs.”

Previous research looked at how this technology is perceived by sports stakeholders and how it can enhance performance through the application of basic engineering principles. Now, the BU team are utilizing a series of statistical techniques to provide informed commentary about the controversy of using prosthetics, the release explains.

Per the release, researchers analyzed the results of the men’s running events performed at the London 2012 Paralympics Games by three different classifications of athlete with an amputation. These classifications comprised athletes with amputations above or below the knee, and whether they had a single or double amputation. The study compared both within and between classifications of these lower-limb amputees.

“Ultimately, this study provides statistical evidence to propose that the number of prosthetic limbs used, the design of such limbs, and the length of the event that they are used in has a significant impact on the results of such competitions at the Paralympic Games,” Hassani and the rest of the team write, per the release.

“As a result, this study reveals that the disability sport stakeholders should not just look at the prosthetics technology generally. They should also consider the type of event that they are being used in and the way athletes within these events are classified,” they continue in the release.

The team further states that this study adds more weight to suggest that the use of such technology in able-bodied sport needs to be carefully considered in the future. They conclude that the prosthesis’ spring-like design could propel an athlete in a way that is not quite like the able-bodied athletes.”

Their findings were also confirmed in a second study, which provided an overview of running performance of athletes with lower-limb amputations at the Paralympic Games between 2004 and 2012. This overview allowed the researchers to gain a greater depth of information about the way athletes use their lower-limb prosthesis when running and whether running performance has changed over time as advances in technology of prosthesis has changed, the release explains.

[Source(s): Bournemouth University, Newswise]