Agility is an important quality to develop with athletes from field and court based sports. Change of direction (COD) ability is a sub-component of agility that relates to the physical and technical capacity to change direction. COD actions are also often implicated in the incidence of non-contact anterior cruciate ligament injuries in soccer, handball, rugby and American football due to the propensity to generate high knee joint loads during the plant phase of a directional change. However, technical factors associated with generating such high knee joint loads are at odds with what might be required from a peformance perspective (i.e. a wide lateral leg plant during a side-step cut is associated with elevated knee abduction moments, but is also necessary to generate medially directed force to faciltate the COD).
This research theme focuses on identifying the primary kinetic and kinematic determinants of COD (and related actions) performance and the associated risk of injury, while identifying specific components that can be trained to enhance COD performance and reduce injury risk.
Several prior publications have allowed us to begin to develop appropriate evidence-based models of technique for several COD manouevres to inform screening and intervention strategies. Recent work has validated a qualitative screening tool (Cutting Movement Assessment Score [CMAS]) to enable field-based assessment of athletes movement quality whilst peforming side-step cutting manoeuvres, as a way to bring biomechanical assessment of this type to athletes and coaches. A review of litertaure has suggested that technique modification training maybe the primary way to address hazardous change of direction mechanics and thus, recent work has provided further efficacy that such approaches can be used in a performance setting to help improve athletes side-step cutting technique, whilst enhancing peformance, providing adequate pre-screening of technique is undertaken to identify hazardous mechanics.