Force Plates: Many Have Them; Few Use Them.

By Sparta Science

August 31, 2018

While the force plate was once only available in the clinical setting or biomechanics labs, we are now seeing them all over the place. Simply said, the hardware is not the brand new cutting edge piece of technology it once was. Within our Sparta partners it is not uncommon to see an athlete assessed on an outdoor court before a pickup basketball game (see below). We’ve seen healthcare patients step on a force plate instead of a scale to weigh-in at the doctor’s office. Force plates are being adopted far and wide for a handful of reasons - and have been for many years now. The question is why not? Why not track qualities we know are important to health and performance objectively? Why not validate that we are doing the right things as practitioners?

Over the past year, Sparta has grown outside of athletics into fields like healthcare, military, and fitness organizations. A common theme we’ve noticed when visiting partners are force plates. Not the ones that they’ve acquired from us, but rather the ones they’ve purchased and left to collect dust over the last several years. Since force plates are considered the “gold standard” when it comes to the measurement of ground reaction forces, it’s to no surprise that those serious in measuring and validating movement have purchased the hardware in the past. In fact, many of our current partners have had, and used force plates many years before talking with us. It’s not the hardware that is new, but rather a new approach to filtering and adding context to the data to make better decisions - faster.

Technology Rule #1: It must save you time.

When visiting a potential military partner in recent months, it was asked how often they use their current force plates. The answer was “about every 8 months – when we have the time to do so, because it takes too long.” This is far too common. Most of our partners have had force plates collecting dust without use for that same reason. Another common response is “we only test when __ is here because they’re the only one that knows how to use it.” It is clear that these situations didn’t work out because of the lack of practicality.

It is not uncommon to see organizations test individuals only to take the next couple of months messing with the data to see what looked “off,” or have that “aha” moment of where the deficiency must be. Meanwhile, the patients feel that they were used as lab rats and nothing has been changed in what they do! Force plate begins to collect dust here.

Are the force plates there for the staff’s entertainment, job protection, or the well-being of the patient, or athlete?

The real value in any piece of technology comes in its ability to filter the data, otherwise we are left swimming in variables and data points - most of which we can’t explain. Whether it’s GPS, Velocity Based Training (VBT), Heart Rate Variability (HRV), or Force-Time Variables – if you can’t interpret, or use one of the many variables it spits out you are probably wasting more time than you are saving. This isn’t a hardware problem - It’s a software problem. Software must provide clarity in order to bestow the context needed to drive the process. If you can’t quickly get quantitative, reliable, and consistent feedback in a practical manner why even collect it?

Force hardware doesn't return an investment without data, injury insights and actionable plans that improve athlete health and prevent injury. 

Technology Rule #2: Refer to rule #1.

Talk to our team to find out how to leverage our 10 years of data and injury insights to help your athletes.

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