Sensor suits help measure spring in dancers’ steps

Scientists measure the long-term effects of dancer’s movements on joints and muscle groups using inertial motion capture suits and movement-measuring floors. They hope to help determine how to reducee the stress on athletes’ bodies. Sharon Reich reports.

ZABRZE AND KOSZECIN, POLAND (REUTERS) – Dancing is great exercise, but it also can put stress on the body and lead to joint diseases like osteoperosis.

That’s why a group of Polish scientists are measuring the physical pressures dancers face while performing with the help of this motion capturing suit.

Professor Robert Michnik and his team at Silesian University of Technology created the special ‘costume’ made of sensors.

What makes the suit so unique is that when used with a floor that’s hooked up to a recording system it takes detailed measurements and can assess which skeletal and muscle bodies bare the heaviest loads when dancing.


“We gather together the information from these two systems, synchronise the measurement data and analyse them to find out how body position influences the size (of the load). From this studies can take place. In addition, we have already prepared a mathematical model allowing the calculation of the forces generated by the muscles and it allows you to show the reaction in the joints.”

The results will help researchers determine the long term impact of force on a dancer’s joints.

After all, the figure jumps that often look so light and elegant can actually be heavy burdens for the dancers bodies.

With the help of the suit, the team determined that classical ballet dancers face the greatest strains on joints and bones. Measurements show that the vertical ground reaction force could reach up to ten times the weight of the dancer.

Professional dancer Magdalena Wrazlowska, says she never realized the kind of pressure being put on her skeletal system.


“I’m not sure if I would have chosen this profession years ago when starting ballet school if I had known about these loads, whether to choose to take this path … but I think I would have.”

Researchers hope their study results will help choreographers and trainers develop exercises and new movements that reduce the strain on their bodies.