Biomechanical
Analysis of Impact Shock on Fencing Lunge

Kristen
Morgan 000815074

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California
State University, Bakersfield

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Biomechanical
Analysis of Impact Shock on Fencing Lunge

            The sport of fencing has been celebrated in the modern
Olympics since 1896. Fencing combines speed and agility with finesse and
intellect to outwit and counter opponents. There are three main styles of
fencing: foil, saber, and epée. Each of these styles has their own respective
point objectives and equipment. While these three styles are fought
differently, some moves remain unchanged. In particular, the fencing lunge is
used by all three styles. A fencing lunge is an aggressive tactic utilized with
aim to score a touch.

The
anatomy of a fencing lunge begins with the fencing ready stance; dominate leg
forward approximately slightly larger than shoulder width apart with foot
facing forward, and non-dominate leg behind with foot facing laterally. Both
knees on respective legs begin with slight knee flexion, allowing for quicker
responses. When the lunge is initiated, the center of mass of the athlete is
shifted back onto the nondominant leg. The nondominant knee then extends
rapidly to propel the body forward, all while maintaining heel contact. The
dominant leg lifts during the weight shift, remains in swing phase during the
nondominant extension, and lunges forward to close the gap between the attacker
and opponent, ending in increased knee flexion with the trunk flexed and over
the knee (Chen, Wong, Wang, Ren, & Yan, et al., 2017). The sword follows
the path of the dominant leg to score the touch. While this action itself may
not seem spectacular to an average observer, the lunge is crucial in initiating
a touch during a match, and is repeated frequently and with increased force
throughout the bouts.

Analysis
of the fencing lunge is important when taking into account the impact the lunge
has in the sport itself. Considering its importance, biomechanical
emphasis in relation to the lunge should be focused on maintaining
proper alignment of the knee, applying proper loading techniques, utilizing
appropriate equipment and practice areas, and specifying at risk areas for
injury prevention.

Analysis of the Knee

            Considering the movement analysis of the fencing lunge,
the knee plays a vital role in shock absorption and stabilization. The tibia,
in particular, absorbs a fair amount of impact shock during a high force lunge.
Electromyograms and force plates were the most commonly used devices for data
collection of the knee. Chuanjie, and Zhengwei utilized
both techniques for collecting their data on female fencers. Chuanjie, and Zhengwei studied ground reaction force
as well as joint reaction force of the knee with their female fencing athletes.
The goal of this study was to determine a correlation between the various
forces acting on the knee during the touch-down phase (heel contact) of the
fencing lunge. According to the research, “the maximum ground reaction force,
knee joint moment and knee joint reaction force appear at the moment of heel
landing in the fencing lunge swing leg, which shows that when the joint
reaction force is maximum, the joint moment and ground reaction force are with
the peak and there is a positive correlation between the three dynamic indexes”
(Chuanjie, & Zhengwei, 2017). This means that the force applied by the
ground in reaction to the body as well as the patellar compression force during
heel contact of the fencing lunge were at their greatest respective values. The
positive correlation shows the increased bearing capacity of the knee during
the fencing lunge, and also alludes to the possibility of injury occurring
during this phase. Trautmann, Martinelli, and Rosenbaum
state in their research on foot loading during a lunge, that high peak
pressures can cause a joint to be more susceptible to injury (Trautmann,
Martinelli, & Rosenbaum, 2011). Trautmann, Martinelli, and Rosenbaum do
however argue that focal point of the lunge is not the knee, but instead the
feet.

Loading

            Biomechanical loading is defined as the force applied to
the body versus speed. In relation to the fencing lunge, this refers to the
process of weight transfer during the descending swing and heel contact phase
where all pressure was previously placed in the nondominant leg, but is now
being placed in the foot of the dominant leg in a quick timeframe. To determine
the specific distribution of the load throughout the dominant foot, Trautmann,
Martinelli, and Rosenbaum used the Pedar-Mobile-System. The Pedar-Mobile-System
is a set of insoles that are placed in the participants shoe and record data
concerning pressure placement over the entire plantar side of the foot during
movement. The data obtained is wirelessly communicated, making the equipment
easy to use for very active movements, like the fencing lunge. Trautmann,
Martinelli, and Rosenbaum determined that there were, “significant interactions
between movement and the shoe model, …, in the heel and midfoot for peak
pressure, and in the midfoot, forefoot, and hallux for force–time integral…” (Trautmann,
Martinelli, & Rosenbaum, 2011). Based on these findings, it is inferred
that the greater amount of shock is initially absorbed through the heel and
then the midfoot, but the greatest bearing of pressure over time is amongst the
midfoot, forefoot, and hallux of the athlete’s dominant foot. Considering these
pressure areas, appropriate footwear can aide in alleviating some of the
negative effects and injury risks.

External Influences

            External influences in fencing would be considered
equipment and practice area. When focusing primarily on the lower body, shoes
and flooring tend to be of most importance, due to the direct impact both
factors can have on the joints and ligaments in the legs. According to research
conducted by Sinclair, Bottoms, Taylor, and Greenhalgh,
“one of the characteristics of the foot impacting the surface during a lunge is
the transmission of an axial transient shock wave through the body which
carries with it the potential for injury” (Sinclair, Bottoms, Taylor, & Greenhalgh,
2010). Sinclair, Bottoms, Taylor and Greenhalgh state that the foot is the
initial contact for the impact shock that is then carried through the leg.
Given the anatomy of the foot, this means that loading and pressure placement
on the dominant foot are incredibly important for initial shock absorption.
Otherwise, when neglected, injury to major bones such as the talus, or major
joints such as the tibiotalar joint can occur.

            A fencer can alter his/her footwear as one alternative
method to correcting shock absorption at the feet. Sinclair,
Bottoms, Taylor, and Greenhalgh researched the difference between typical
fencing shoes and average running shoes in relation to shock absorption.
Fencer’s shoes tend to be thinner and very light weight. These shoes serve the
purpose of allowing the fencer enough traction for stability and agility, but
also light enough that they do not add any extra weight to the fencer when
attempting more agile movements. Running and other typical athletic shoes tend
to have a roam or rubber padding along the sole of the shoe to provide shock
absorption properties. This is a key aspect that fencing shoes are lacking. In
their discussion of the findings, Sinclair, Bottoms, Taylor, and Greenhalgh
stated that, “the limited availability of specific shock attenuating footwear
to the fencer may predispose fencers to overuse injuries” (Sinclair, Bottoms,
Taylor, & Greenhalgh, 2010). Sinclair, Bottoms, Taylor, and Greenhalgh
acknowledged the lack of availability and risk for injury, but did not offer
alternative footwear that would meet the shock absorption needs as well as the
light weight agility needs of the fencer.

            Another area related to reducing shock absorption is
flooring. The surface utilized for fencing can differ depending on the studio,
level of competition, and time of year of the bout. On top of the flooring is
often a piste, which is used to prevent the recording systems from registering
a touch by the sword coming in contact with the ground rather than the
opponent. Flooring surfaces used are often concrete or wood, and pistes often
used are either metal or carpet. Greenhalgh, Bottoms,
and Sinclair also conducted a study to determine which surface and piste
combination would provide the athlete with the least amount of impact shock. After
the lunges were performed and data was collected and analyzed using
accelerometers, Greenhalgh, Bottoms, and Sinclair derived that, “magnitudes of
impact shock implicated in the etiology of overuse injury may be reduced by
training and competing on a sprung sports surface” (Greenhalgh, Bottoms, &
Sinclair, 2013). From the combinations tested, the wooden surface proved to
provide the least amount of impact shock. The shock produced between the metal
and carpet pistes was negligible due to the incredibly small difference and
account of error.

Gender Differences

            Many research articles regarding fencing appear to be
lacking in quantity of athletes for participation. Many experiments, such as Chuanjie and Zhengwei’s, contained only 6
participants, all of whom were female. Other experiments, such as Trautmann,
Martinelli, and Rosenbaum’s research, observed 29 participants in total, with
20 males and only 9 females. Aside from the inconsistent participant
recruitment, each article obtained utilized both number and sex of the
participants for the advantage of obtaining enough gender specific data to draw
basic conclusions. Sinclair and Bottoms synthesize their gender specific
findings to conclude that, “females could be at a greater risk of knee injuries
due to the greater knee abduction and hip adduction produced during the fencing
lunge” (Sinclair, & Bottoms, 2017). Sinclair and Bottoms took a different
approach to data collection than the other researchers mentioned, utilizing
solely a 3-D motion capture system with specified markers on lower extremity
joints. A statistical analysis (T test) was conducted to quantify the data
collected between the males and females. As mentioned previously, Sinclair and
Bottoms noted greater knee abduction and hip adduction in females during the
final stage of the fencing lunge. This means that the female athletes’ feet
tended to be lateral to their knee when seen as a horizontal line, and their
knee and hip similar to a valgus position. This position is not optimal for
landing, and places the bulk of the load on medial portion of the knee and can
lead to injury. Males tested in this experiment were not observed to have
similar patterns; however, this is only a sample and further research must be
conducted to rule out the risk of injury for males as well.

Conclusion

            In general, research related to the fencing lunge was
rather small, with most of it being in the last 10 years. There are more
studies concerning the upper body movement associated with fencing, assumable
since that is how touches are won. The lower body; however, plays a significant
role in fencing as well, but does not seem to be accurately represented in the
research. Also, many of the articles obtained had few participants. This can
lead to larger room for error in data samples, with some data being skewed. For
example, the data obtained from Sinclair and Bottoms in relation to gender and
lunging contained only 9 participants, with 6 female and 3 male. The male
subjects tested did not demonstrate valgus in landing while the females did.
Since the population was so small, it is difficult to tell whether this data
was an accurate representation of all male fencers, or rather a set of male
fencers who differ from the norm.

All
of the consulted research stated that shock absorption and impact shock in
general are leading causes for pain and injury among fencers. With this being
such a prominent statement, little was discussed on how to improve shock
absorption and prevent injury. Greenhalgh, Bottoms, and Sinclair were able to
determine the most suitable flooring for decreased shock absorption, but their
study, accompanied by Taylor, related to fencing shoes did not provide a
suitable alternative. Chuanjie and Zhengwei’s research as well as Sinclair and
Bottoms’ research concluded that knee placement during a lunge can impact shock
absorption and increase the risk for injury; however, neither party determined
or discussed possible corrective measures.

In
order to conduct a true and complete biomechanical analysis of the fencing
lunge, all criteria must be met, including alternatives for data falling
outside the normal range. These criteria consist of maintaining proper
alignment of the knee, applying proper loading techniques, utilizing
appropriate equipment and practice areas, and specifying at risk areas for
injury prevention. Since current research has not yet identified all of the criteria,
further studies should be conducted to determine appropriate corrective
measures, appropriate footwear, and specific injury risks for men.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

Greenhalgh,
A., Bottoms, L., & Sinclair, J. (2013). Influence of Surface on Impact
Shock

Experienced During a Fencing Lunge. Retrieved 2017,
from https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/30b9/0d4539c3ca96fa48ebbdb2e385d8d4070dbb.pdf

Chen TL-W, Wong DW-C,
Wang Y, Ren S, Yan F, Zhang M (2017) Biomechanics of fencing

sport:
A scoping review. PLoS ONE 12(2): e0171578. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0171578

Chuanjie,
Z., & Zhengwei, F. (2017). Biomechanical analysis of
knee joint mechanism of the

national
women’s epee fencing lunge movement. Access Login. Retrieved 2017,
from http://web.a.ebscohost.com.falcon.lib.csub.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=1&sid=0d26dde9-30c9-409d-b835-b9099dd74664%40sessionmgr4007

Sinclair, J., &
Bottoms, L. (2017, April 3). Gender differences in the kinetics and lower

extremity
kinematics of the fencing lunge. doi: 10.1080/24748668.2013.11868660

Sinclair,
J., Bottoms, L., Taylor, K., & Greenhalgh,
A. (2010). Tibial shock measured during the

fencing
lunge: The influence of footwear. Access Login. Retrieved 2017,
from http://web.a.ebscohost.com.falcon.lib.csub.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=1&sid=85e8bb77-0bb1-4b63-a3f9-aae6a3226c7a%40sessionmgr4008

Trautmann,
C., Martinelli, N., & Rosenbaum,
D.
(2011, December). Foot loading characteristics

during
three fencing-specific movements. Access Login. Retrieved 2017,
from http://web.a.ebscohost.com.falcon.lib.csub.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=1&sid=ca7373ee-be55-476f-b643-b33a16a60779%40sessionmgr4006