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BYU creates FitBit-like device for figure skaters

Jaren Wilkey/BYU

A wearable device can track your steps, calories burned, and changes in your heartbeat. For figure skaters, common tech cannot track the height and rotation of a jump.

BYU researchers, with funding from the U.S. Figure Skating Association, has created a prototype device that can do just that, according to BYU News.

This FitBit-like device is waist-mounted uses an accelerometer, a gyroscope, and a magnometer to track the movements of a figure skater that appear to defy gravity.

Dustin Bruening, assistant professor of exercise science at BYU and lead researcher of the project, explains how this innovation can benefit figure skaters.

“Jumps are the No. 1 thing that skaters and coaches want information about,” Bruening says.

Beyond additional metrics about performance on the ice, this device can also improve the safety of those executing and landing the Lutz, Salchow, or Axel jumps.

“Most overuse injuries are likely related to the landing specifically. We haven’t, in the past, really had a good way of measuring those forces,” Bruening adds.

A recently published paper in the journal of the Public Library of Science details how this wearable jump monitor can accurately track more than 95% of the jumps.

A local figure skater, Sarah Lyle, is one of the athletes testing the device.

“When I can’t land a jump, I keep doing it and doing it and I’ve gotten several injuries from that,” Lyle says. “It’s important to know when I’ve done 100 double axles, and that I should stop for today so I don’t hurt myself.”

The U.S. Figure Skating has a great interest in the project and accordingly was a sponsor of the wearable jump monitor.

A coauthor of the study, Peter Zapalo of the U.S. Figure Skating’s Athlete High Performance Deparment, will be with the athletes at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships this weekend.

The U.S. Figure Skating Championships run from January 18 to the January 27 in Detroit, Michigan.