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Optimize Running Gait Analysis Outcomes with Wearable Tech

running form running gait analysis wearable technology Dec 20, 2023
Optimize Running Gait Analysis Outcomes with Wearable Tech

The integration of wearable technology has become instrumental in providing more effective, precise patient care. Among these innovations, Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) sensors stand out as a cost-effective tool to enhance running gait analysis. Here’s the most recent information available on IMU sensors.

Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) Sensors

IMU devices house sensors that measure acceleration, angular velocity, and sometimes magnetic field strength. By incorporating these sensors into wearable devices, running experts gain access to invaluable data that can significantly improve their understanding of a patient's running gait.

How To Integrate IMU Sensors Into Gait Analysis

Inertial Measurement Unit technology provides an objective and quantifiable assessment of a patient's running gait. This data serves as a foundation for evidence-based decision-making in treatment planning. Key benefits to using IMU technology include:

Identification of Biomechanical Abnormalities:

  • By capturing intricate details of a patient's gait, IMU sensors assist in identifying potentially harmful gait deviations. This data includes information on the runner’s impact forces at initial contact, foot flight time, ground contact time, step length and sometimes joint position. 

Real-Time Feedback on Running Gait:

  • IMU devices offer real-time feedback, enabling practitioners to improve gait retraining outcomes. The success of verbal gait retraining can be monitored in real-time with IMU sensor data. Clinical applications include IMU sensors monitoring stride length, overstriding and heel strike data for verbal cues such as “run softer” or “run lighter”. 

Patient Education and Engagement:

  • The visual representation of gait data generated by IMU technology serves as a powerful educational tool for patients. These visual representations include skeletal models, graphs and charts of the patient’s running data. Running experts are seeing trends of increased patient engagement and completion of treatment plans with these educational resources. 

Grab the “Runner’s Knee Handout” for ready-made patient education. Pro tip: attach your business cards and contact info to these and hand them out at running events. 

How To Select The Right IMU Sensor

Selecting the right Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) sensor into a running gait analysis depends on how the practitioner plans to utilize the captured data. Here are some key considerations:

Sensor Integration:

  • Running experts agree that using a wearable sensor In ADDITION to a practitioner's observational gait analysis is most effective. Clinicians should consider specifically what data they want the wearable technology to collect. For example, some practitioners may want to collect data from multiple sensors on both the right and left lower extremities. For clinicians selecting their first wearable sensor, consider starting with two wearable units for bilateral use. When using the sensor with the runner, select the most relevant anatomical location based on the runner's subjective data. 

Placement and Attachment:

  • Clinicians should ensure that the IMU sensors can be easily and securely attached to the body. The placement of sensors is crucial for accurate gait analysis. Common locations include the lower extremities, such as the ankle, tibia, knee, hip, pelvis and lumbar spine.

Wireless Connectivity:

  • Wireless IMU sensors offer flexibility and ease of use, especially in dynamic running environments. Bluetooth is preferable for real-time data collection.

Size and Weight:

  • Choose lightweight and compact sensors, as bulky or heavy devices can affect natural movement and comfort during running.

Reliability, Accuracy, Calibration and Drift Compensation:

  • Running experts should select sensors that offer accurate and reliable data collection. Ensure the device has calibration procedures and drift compensation mechanisms. These features help maintain accuracy over time and with changing environmental conditions. While online reviews can be helpful, look to peer reviewed articles to help guide your decision making. 

Compatibility with Analysis Software:

  • Many running experts use gait analysis software. Some sensors come with their own software, while others may be integrated into existing gait analysis software, running watches and smartphones. An IMU compatible with other wearable devices such as insoles, force plates and 3D gait analysis technology can provide additional integration of wearable data into a gait analysis.

A Cost-Effective Way To Stand Out From The Crowd

IMU sensors can offer many benefits to runners and enhance a clinician’s running gait analysis. Integration of wearable technology is a cost-effective, budget friendly option to incorporate additional objective data into a runner's gait analysis and treatment plan. With wearable technology becoming commonplace for athletes, clinicians must leverage their knowledge with data captured from wearable devices. 

Resources For You To Leverage Wearable Technology

If you are considering using wearable technology to enhance your running gait analysis check out the continuing education course: The Essentials of Running Gait Analysis (6.5 CEUs). Inside you’ll learn about specific wearable technology brands and devices to improve runners outcomes and help you stand out from the competition! 


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