Researchers at GIH have conducted biomechanical research to create evidence-based classification systems for athletes competing in paracanoe. Anna Bjerkefors and Johanna Rosén gave us some insight to their research process, which uses motion capture and allows them to further study the details of sport performance.
The researchers shared their journey developing evidence-based classification systems for Paracanoe using Qualisys motion capture, which resulted in the sport being accepted for the Paralympic Games.
The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) requires that sports included in the Paralympic games must have an evidence-based classification system. Paracanoe is a relatively new sport in which athletes with physical impairments compete in either Para-kayak or Para Va’a. Para-kayak is contested in a kayak propelled with a double-blade paddle and Para Va’a is contested in a Polynesian outrigger canoe and is propelled using a single-blade paddle.
In 2012 Dr. Anna Bjerkefors from the Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences (GIH) was contacted by the International Canoe Federation (ICF) to lead the scientific work in creating an evidence-based classification system for Para-kayak and Para Va’a. Together with PhD student Johanna Rosén, Professor Toni Arndt and laboratory engineer Olga Tarassova all three from GIH, 3D motion data and paddling power output has been collected using Qualisys system on 33 able-bodied kayak and Va’a athletes and 130 Paracanoe athletes from 20 different countries.
Data collections have also been conducted at GIH in Stockholm in collaboration with Professor Victoria Goosey-Tolfrey from Peter Harrison Centre for Disability Sport at Loughborough University (Great Britain), at George Fox University (USA) in collaboration with Professor Jeff Houck and Robin Dorociak, and at National Center of Sport training in Moscow, Russia.
Information of how athletes with different impairments paddle compared to able-bodied athletes and compared to other impairment types was then used as a basis for creating evidence-based classification systems for Para-kayak and Para Va’a in close collaboration with international classifiers from the ICF.
Johanna Rosén and Dr. Anna Bjerkefors were among the representatives from GIH to work towards the classification. Johanna Rosén is a member of the ICF Paracanoe sub-committee and writes her doctoral thesis on Paracanoe. Dr. Anna Bjerkefors is the research leader of the Paracanoe project and also a member of the ICF Paracanoe sub-committee.
It feels great to be able to help more people have the opportunity to compete in the Paralympic Games in two new disciplinesJohanna Rosén (pictured left)
A new sport for the Paralympic games
The new classification systems were approved by the IPC resulting in Para-kayak being accepted for the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro 2016 and Para Va’a accepted for the Paralympic games in Tokyo 2020.