Spotting Poor Technique and Improving Athletic Performance

An interview with Professor Dr. Jürgen Edelmann-Nusser, Steinbeis Entrepreneur at the Steinbeis Research Center for Technologies, Performance Diagnostics and Health Management in Sport

Sports biomechanics enables precise movement analysis and optimisation of an athlete’s technique with the aim of improving performance  and minimizing the risk of injury. Professor Dr. Jürgen Edelmann-Nusser, Steinbeis expert and holder of the Chair of Sport and Technology at the Department of Sports Science at the University of Magdeburg, spoke to TRANSFER magazine about current developments in sports biomechanics and the important role played by technology trends.

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 Hello Professor Edelmann-Nusser. You work in the field of sports biomechanics. What topics are you currently focusing on in your research?

Our focus lies in the application of inertial measurement units (IMUs) in the field of biomechanics and performance analysis. IMUs are used to acquire  biomechanical characteristics  and factors that determine performance in real time. These are easy-to-use systems that can be used in everyday training, and they provide immediate feedback on on the execution of the movement   on a smartphone or tablet together with a video. This allows coaches and athletes to target specific goals in  daily training or detect movement dysfunctions .

In terms of the technology needed to do this, between two and five IMUs are attached to athletes and these are used to capture key parameters, which are based on algorithms that have been specifically developed for each kind of sport. For example, a system currently under development as part of a project with the German Athletics Association is looking at javelin throwing and shot putting. The IMU technology built into smartphones can also be used directly, for example in canoe racing. A system has now been developed that allows a smartphone to be mounted on a special holder at the front of the canoe and provide immediate feedback on stroke rates, speed, and the rotational movements of the canoe around three axes – yaw, roll, and pitch. This can be displayed synchronously with a video, or different parameters can be displayed in a traffic light system. If it’s green the values are in the right range, amber means the values are still acceptable, and red means the variables need to be corrected.

How can these insights be used to deliver benefit in practice?

There are some excellent uses for the canoe racing app I just mentioned, especially for up-and-coming sportspeople. It also adds a competitive element to daily practice, not just keeping the traffic light on green but also perfecting your paddling technique or, for example, recording the fastest time of the day.

What impacts are current technology trends such as digitech having on your work?

From a technical standpoint, it’s now possible to share canoeing data gathered by apps directly – through the cellphone network, so coaches don’t have to be physically in the same place, but they can still track training progress in real time. This is particularly important for top-level sport, because it enables national coaches to oversee athletes doing daily training in remote locations.

You were one of the conference organizers of the dvs Biomechanics Section in Magdeburg in September 2023. What are the aims of the event and did it offer any new insights?

The dvs – or German Society of Sport Science – organizes a conference every two years in different locations, and the idea is to promote scientific and academic exchange on sports biomechanics in Germany. The topics discussed at the conference in September included clinical biomechanics in gait analysis, musculoskeletal biomechanics, modern testing methods and technologies, but also biomechanical modeling, and applications used in different types of sport.

A number of new insights arose, with lots of small scientific advances relating to a variety of problems. For example there was a session looking at the biomechanical gait analysis of competition horses, a presentation made by a working group from Munich looking at the impact of headers in soccer in relation to the level of the sport, and several authors from Freiburg investigated the influence of age on knee joint biomechanics in young female soccer players. I was also involved myself in a study on setting the optimum saddle height in keeping with increased levels of exertion and how this affects fatigue during cycling.


The proceedings [in German] of the dvs Biomechanics 2023 conference are available in the Steinbeis-Edition store:

Prof. Dr. Jürgen Edelmann-Nusser (interviewee)
Steinbeis Entrepreneur
Steinbeis Research Center Technologies, Performance Assessment and Health Management in Sports (Biederitz)