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What happens to your body when you throw an axe?

Axe-throwing movement is under the microscope to understand how the body moves during three professional axe-throwing techniques.
Axe-throwing movement is under the microscope to understand how the body moves during three professional axe-throwing techniques.

With the sport of axe throwing growing and elite competition booming, a Charles Darwin University (CDU) sports scientist is looking at how the three most common throwing techniques impact the body.

The two-handed overhead technique for throwing axes has the most explosive impact on the body compared to the single-hand underhand or overhand methods, according to the study.

The CDU team put an accelerometer on an elite axe thrower’s scapula, who then threw an axe using the one-hand underhand throw, a two-handed overhead throw, and a one-hand overarm throw to understand how the body shifted using the different techniques.

The results of A Case Study in Upper Body Kinematics of an Elite Axe Thrower Using Sensor Technology were recently published in Research Directs in Strength and Performance.   

Lead author of the study, CDU exercise and sports scientist Dr Stuart Evans, said the test's purpose was to analyse an axe thrower's scapula and elbow acceleration.

“There was significantly more acceleration of the scapula with the two-handed overhead technique,” Dr Evans said.

“As for elbow kinematics, no significant differences were observed in acceleration magnitude in all throwing techniques.”

Dr Evans, from the Faculty of Health, said the results showed the value of wearable sensors to detect motion in different axe throwing techniques.  

He said that the study was conducted in the thrower’s typical competitive environment.

“This enables that we can monitor the athlete in their typical surroundings rather than take the athlete in what is often an unfamiliar laboratory environment," Dr Evans said.

Axe throwing is scored through accuracy and hitting a target, similar to archery, not through the power or speed of the axe head. Studying the movement while throwing an axe however helps participants to develop more accurate techniques.

Studying velocity also helps to understand the wear and tear on the body of the various techniques.

Dr Evans said there were limits to the research and more had to be done to assess what happens to the body when throwing axes in a competitive environment.

“We only used one participant in a practice environment for the testing,” Dr Evans said.

In this well-defined field-based environment, there were no typical game situations, such as the action of opponents, tactical guidance, temporal and spatial pressure situations, or psychological pressure due to competition.”

Dr Evans said that in a competitive sport where technique is essential, there was more analysis to be done in different situations but using biometric sensors could reveal much more about how the body moves. 

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