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Want to Be a Faster Athlete? Use Tennis Balls.

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Running is one of the first sporting activities that people learn to do as infants. On average children learn to walk between the ages of 9 and 12 months of age, and by the time they are 18 to 24 months they are running around. Running also happens to be one of the biggest sports, and the olympics demonstrate that perfectly. The 2004 Athens games had 3.9 billion viewers and the 2008 Beijing games had 4.4 billion viewers. London 2012 and Rio 2016 each received 3.6 billion television viewers, all going to show how competitive and widely watched running is. However one of the things that is not being measured is the height of an athlete’s foot arch. As insignificant as this may seem, a lower fo

ot arch (which is very common nowadays) means that some of the muscles up the leg are consequently weaker. So we decided to test whether or not foot arch has an affect on your 400 meter sprint time. Our research question was “Is there a positive relationship between the height of your foot arch and your 400 meter time.” Our hypothesis stated: “We think that over pronated participants will not run as fast as ‘neutral’ foot arches. We think this because the muscles will be weaker in overpronators, therefore, there should not be as much energy return when their feet hit the ground because they strike more on their heels than on their mid-foot.”

To test this, we had participants from the FIS track team run through our list of stretches to get warmed up. Then each participant ran a total of three trials of 400 meters, each trial with a 10 minute break in between so that they were as energetic as possible. Then we measured their foot arch height and the amount of force they could exert on the ground using a force plate (they did a vertical jump). We then inserted all our data into an excel spreadsheet, and processed it. We made 2 tables; the first compared foot arch and the 400 meter time, the second  compared foot arch and the amount of force exerted into a force plate.

The results we found, supported our hypothesis, but there was no prior research with results against which we could compare our results. It showed that there was a positive correlation between foot arch and 400 meter time. However there were points that we could improve on. For example, the participants were of varying weights and so the heavier ones put more force into the plate with much less effort. We could have taken participants who were roughly the same weight, so as to minimise this problem. As bad as this looks for overpronators, flat footed arches can be corrected into ‘neutral’ foot arches through some simple, but daily exercises. For example balancing on tennis balls and playing catch, or picking up bottle lids with your toes. Overall this experiment was a success with results that can help overpronated athletes.

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Want to Be a Faster Athlete? Use Tennis Balls.