Washington, May 30 (ANI): A team of Canadian researchers believe that they have isolated the key components of a successful wrist shot in ice hockey, which is considered to be one of the hardest skills in sports to master, by using 3-D motion capture analysis.
The quick, on-the-fly wrist shot can be deadly accurate and accounts for 23-37 percent of shots taken at the professional level.
A player aiming to sent the puck into one of the four corners of the goal must be able to control not only its horizontal direction but height also, when aiming at the top corners.
This precision has to happen while the puck is sliding on the ice independently of the player and his stick.
McGill University professors David Pearsall and Rene Turcotte and graduate student Yannick Michaud-Paquette undertook the present study with a view to determining how the mechanics of the hockey stick and blade affected the flight of the puck.
The researchers also wanted to point to specific movement patterns which resulted in more accurate shots.
"Very little information exists describing the kinetics and kinematics of skating and shooting skills. We are for the first time learning about how skills are executed in an optimized fashion," Live Science quoted Turcotte as saying.
The researchers asked 25 hockey players, ranging in skill from novice to varsity level players, to shoot pucks at targets located in the four corners of a goal until they had hit each target ten times.
The subjects were allowed 20 shots per target with their accuracy percentage recorded.
The team had also marked the players' sticks and the pucks with reflective stickers that could be seen by six 3-D motion capture cameras, which were placed around the goal.
Everything from the angle, pitch and yaw of the stick blade to the stick velocity and contact time between puck and stick were measured as possible variables for accuracy.
The researcher observed that the successful shot percentages were evenly divided between the novices (as low as 27 percent) and the expert players (as high as 80 percent).
When shooting at the bottom targets, the most significant variable that affected accuracy was the position of the puck on the blade when released.
It was found that the novices tended to position the puck closer to the blade's heel, while the better players put it closer to the centre of the curve in the blade, closer to the toe.
Hitting the top two corners of the goal was by far the most difficult task, with 20 percent less accuracy compared to the bottom corners. This makes sense as the third dimension of height is now added.
Since the flight of the puck now is affected by gravity, the initial trajectory of the puck becomes important. Just like a baseball pitch, the faster the object travels, the flatter and more accurate the trajectory.
The team found that faster initial puck velocity when released from the stick significantly improved accuracy.
Also important was something called the blade's "roll angle" at puck release.
Video of the expert players showed that when getting the puck ready to shoot, they drag or draw in the puck and the stick's blade closer their feet and this would let them use their wrists more to give the stick that well known "flick."
The beginner players would more often push the puck forward without any pre-shot adjustment closer to their body.
"Research in this area is relatively new and so many of the findings in our laboratory and in two or three others are producing new knowledge in this area. Our increased understanding will have implications for teaching and coaching and can help practitioners to teach players to optimise skill development," said Turcotte.
The study's findings have been published in the journal Sports Engineering. (ANI)