The camera never lies; but did we ask the question? Part 1

Mark Comerford and Lincoln Blandford consider the use of video analysis as a means to identify injury risk

Within the realms of professional sport there is an increasing reliance on the use of high tech, high expense video analysis to inform movement professionals of the risks and performance deficits seemingly apparent within their athletes. The employment of such technology can indeed provide a wealth of data, informing on a host of biomechanical qualities that in turn feed into a greater mosaic of potential strategies for athlete management.

A familiar story; movement matters

There continues to be an accrual of acceptance within the literature that ‘movement matters’ with regards to risk, further establishing a mandate for the use of numerous movement assessment methods. When Padua (2012) speaks of ‘high risk movement patterns’ the tone is one pitched at an audience already committed to the belief in their existence, receptive to strategies of their mediation and ongoing investigation within pain free groups.

Dingenen group’s (2014) employment of drop landing tasks with pain free, female athletes allowed measurement of lower body kinematics, revealing subsequent correlation between ‘risk associated movement patterns’ and the amplitude of observed hip flexion. The growth in acceptance of the need to study groups who are pain free but carry movement related risk continues to bolster the use of movement analysis mitigation strategies. Video recording any one athlete’s performance for subsequent scrutiny would then appear to offer up all the data required to ponder the movement related risks that are present.

The movement question the video struggles to answer

Undeniably, video can capture how an individual moved on a specific day, in that task. For those studying the technique of a footballer’s kick or the tennis player’s serve the kinematic data generated is invaluable, as such considerations of consistency of performance are made comparable. This insight is without doubt attractive when video is employed in this manner yet, any question of cognitive control remains simultaneously unasked and unanswered.

Cognitive control and the advantage of ‘goal difference’

Any system founded in the testing of cognitive control highlights a weakness with video analysis.  The goal of testing cognitive control is to enquire into an athlete’s ability to harness and blend their biomechanical and neurophysiological qualities so as to meet the demands of the cognitively challenging task. It is the control centre rather than just the structural periphery that is checked as the athlete’s current ceiling of movement control is profiled. No matter how strong or enduring the individual, the process reveals what they cannot perform. Contrast this to the videoing of a performance and viewing the playback; the movement question (can you prevent that movement occurring?) cannot be asked, cognitive control cannot be revealed.

Sidebend it like Beckham?

It has been suggested by those that worked closely with David Beckham that his celebrated ability to take a free kick possessed technique deficits. For those who adhere to the belief that a perfect technique exists, video analysis allows the comparison of a current performance to an ‘ideal’ technical model, supplying the technical coach with a means of moving an athlete closer to a desired movement outcome. Whether Beckham’s perceived technique deficit was actually a deficit in movement control will always remain unanswered no matter how many times you watch him; the question was never asked.

Find out more from The Performance Matrix and also look out for Part 2 of this article being posted on Physiospot next week


  • Dingenen B., Malfait B., Vanrenterghem J., Verschueren S.M.P., & Staes F.F. (2014). The Reliability And Validity Of The Measurement Of Lateral Trunk Motion In Two-Dimensional Video Analysis During Unipodal Functional Screening Tests In Elite Female Athletes.  Physical Therapy in Sport, 15  (2) , pp. 117-123.
  • Padua, D. A., DiStefano,  L. J., Marshall, S. W., Beutler, A. I., de la Motte, S. J., DiStefano, & M. J. (2012).  Retention Of Movement Pattern Changes After A Lower Extremity Injury Prevention Program Is Affected By Program Duration. American Journal of Sports Medicine. 2012;40(2):300–306.