Balancing techniques scoring in artistic gymnastics: innovative analytical solutions

Dr.Hab., Professor E.N. Medvedeva1
PhD, Associate Professor N.N. Smirnova2
PhD, Associate Professor N.V. Romasheva2
1Lesgaft National State University of Physical Education, Sport and Health, St. Petersburg
2St. Petersburg Mining University, St. Petersburg

Keywords: balancing technique kinematics and stabilography, muscle electrical activity (MEA), difficulty factors, technical score.

Background. Based on a comprehensive analysis of the situation in modern artistic gymnastics, we would underline the growing contradictions between the following: (1) proclaimed mission of the global artistic gymnastics (that is to secure progress of the sport discipline by growing technical difficulty, versatility and mastery), on the one hand; and limitations on the difficulty levels set by the valid rules of competitions with their technical values matrix, on the other hand; (2) growing numbers of the elite competitors demonstrating virtually the same execution mastery and thus evenly scored by experts, on the one hand; and shortage of the accurate technical quality rating tools, on the other hand; (3) the FIG Technical Committee’s policy to secure fairness of the executive mastery scoring by experts, on the one hand; and the lack of the relevant documentary regulation to secure the executive mastery being scored on an unbiased and highly accurate basis, on the other hand; and (4) the policies and natural aspirations to encourage and appreciate highly charismatic artistic performances, on the one hand; and limitations on the technical versatility of elements classified by the technical values (with the limitations effectively constraining the creativity), on the other hand.

That is the reason why that the sport community shows the growing demand for a fairly differentiated technical values scales including an objective balancing technique scoring scale, to ensure executive mastery, difficulty and execution of every element to be accurately rated.

Objective of the study was to provide theoretical grounds for analytical solutions to secure balancing techniques being fairly scored in modern artistic gymnastics.

Methods and structure of the study. We have analyzed for the purposes of the study the relevant special literature, study reports and regulatory documents; made a content analysis of the competitive records; analyzed video replays of the competitive routines (n=128) in ftheinals of the 2013-16 World/ European artistic gymnastics Championships; and tested a new expert valuation method supported by a set of synchronized instrumental rating tests to obtain unbiased biomechanical rates of the balancing technique difficulty including: contactless analyses of the movement sequences; surface electromyography; stabilography; movement design method; and a fact-finding model testing experiment in the training process. The study data were processed by STATGRAPHICS Plus mathematical statistics toolkit.

Results and discussion. Our analysis of the valid rules of competitions demonstrated that the scoring policies and practices effectively constrain the creativity and individual mastery of artistic gymnasts both in the technical difficulty and technical versatility domains. Thus we found that since 2000 the number of technically valued elements has contracted by one third. In the balancing technique scoring domain, for instance, the existing system was found unable to fairly differentiate the real difficulty levels of the routines. This situation is of a degrading effect on the content and artistic merits of the routines since the competitors have to simplify and standardize the balancing techniques in view of the fact that the difficulty levels are scored in an indiscriminant manner (see Table 1) as verified by the low variability of expert scores in the subject Olympic cycle – despite the fact that the actual average difficulty of the competitive routines has obviously grown with progress in the execution quality.

Table 1. Expert scores of the competitive routines (n=128) in finals of the 2013-16 World/ European AG Championships, points

Statistical indices

2013

2014

2015

2016

D

E

D

E

D

E

D

E

М

8,86

8,88

8,81

9,03

9,01

9,09

9,26

9,22

m

0,07

0,06

0,10

0,06

0,07

0,06

0,06

0,05

V

3,09

2,45

4,30

2,62

2,84

2,28

2,44

1,92

Note: D difficulty; E execution;

It is the still imperfect execution mastery scoring expert system that largely restricts the progress – since it fails to accurately select and rate the best-quality performances and difficulty levels with its TV system that makes no consideration for the execution biomechanics.

Based on the comprehensive analysis of the balancing technique kinematics and specifics, we found great contradictions between the balancing techniques technical values under the valid rules of competitions and the real difficulty levels. We found and analyzed benefits of the following kinematic indices that allow scoring of the balancing techniques by visual means on the most fair and accurate basis: body elements (legs, trunk, head, arms) fixing angles; movement ranges; and movement vectors.

Having made a correlation analysis of the stabilographic and kinematic study data, we found good substantiations for our prior assumption that regulators who produced the valid rules of competitions were governed mostly by the angular indices of the movements making no account of the body element movement vectors, muscle electrical activity and muscle coordination indices.

Having rated and ranked the integral biological muscle electrical activity for each balancing technique (see Table 2), we found neither correlations (r=0.58) nor direct functional connections of these rates and rankings with the valid technical values – albeit the analyses of the movement kinematics, stabilograms and electromiograms showed each balancing technique difficulty rate being determined by multiple factors of movement biomechanics. 

Table 2. Integrated biological muscle electrical activity rates of the balancing techniques in modern artistic gymnastics versus the valid technical values (n=12)

Forward abduction of the leg

Side abduction of the leg

Back abduction of the leg

TV, points

Σ ATA,

mkV

RR

TV, points

Σ ATA,

mkV

RR

TV, points

Σ ATA,

mkV

RR

0,2

2543,89

3

0,2

2546,74

1

0,3

2803,93

5

0,2

946,82

4

0,2

765,46

4

0,3

3235,47

3

0,4

2853,98

2

0,4

1937,39

3

0,5

3314,86

2

0,6

3984,53

1

0,6

2262,98

2

0,5

4714,56

1

-

-

-

-

-

-

0,6

3041,66

4

Note: TV technical value; ATA average turn amplitude for muscle electrical activity; RR real rate of the technical values

Thus the most simple in the basic balancing toolkit is the forward leg abduction, followed by the side one; and the most difficult is the backward abduction. It should be emphasized that the average turn amplitudes for the key muscle groups in the backward-abduction balancing elements were tested 1.7-4.1 times higher than in the alike balancing techniques with different (side or forward) leg abduction vectors.

Our correlation analysis of the balancing technique muscle electrical activity rates versus the angular rates showed 87.5% of the key muscles being mobilized (activated or relaxed) to secure due balance. Furthermore, we tested 33-49% of the mobilized muscles being in connection with the angular rates of different joints; with the average turn amplitude found in strong correlation with the balancing technique kinematics in cases of the forward- and backward-abduction elements.

Having rated the antagonist-agonist muscle coordination (musculus quadriceps femoris versus musculus gluteus maximus), we found the reciprocity index varying within the range of 42-63%, with the fixed muscles being virtually evenly strained to secure a high-quality execution of the balancing technique (r=0.5).

Therefore, our study found the following dynamic indices being most beneficial for the artistic gymnastics balancing technique difficulty level scoring/ technical valuation purposes: (1) qualitative rates of the maximal-amplitude muscle electrical activity for an ideal balancing technique; (2) muscle reciprocity indices corresponding to the body elements positioning in the balancing technique as required by the routine; and (3) summarized average turn amplitudes for muscle electrical activity in the balancing technique as required by the routine.

The data correlation analysis showed that the balancing technique technical values shall be governed by the relevant highly informative movement biomechanics indices. The following biomechanical factors were found critical for the artistic gymnastics balancing technique difficulty level scoring/ technical values: square of and specifics of the ground contact; length of the abducted bodily part; maximal-amplitude combinations versus the active bodily parts; maximal-amplitude leg abduction vector; muscles activation rates and numbers; trunk movement/ fixing vector if any; head positioning vector; quality of the squat/ semi-squat with limited ground contact; and asymmetry in positioning of the bodily parts. In addition, we recommend the following objective D/E rating factors that have never been applied for the balancing technique valuation purposes: (1) bodily parts (arms, trunk and legs) movement vectors; muscle activation rate; and the muscle reciprocity rate.

Conclusion. The study offers a balancing technique valuation algorithm based on a set of the objective difficulty rating criteria. Each balancing technique was rated and ranked in the difficulty hierarchy by logical connections in the algorithmic trajectories (30 on the whole) to provide a basis for a newly proposed technical values matrix for this group of artistic gymnastics elements. Having analyzed the study data, we found that the technical values system under the valid rules of competitions fails to objectively rate at least 45% of the real balancing technique difficulty levels. The study data demonstrates the need for a theoretically grounded technical values matrix in the updated rules of competitions to put the competitive routine difficulty scoring system on an unbiased and accurate basis. Tests of the proposed expert valuation model with application of the new technical values matrix showed significant progress in the competitive performance scoring quality both in the balancing technique technical values and executive mastery rating domains. Ratings of the sampled elite artistic gymnastics competitors were found insignificant (p≤0.05) change by 25-75%, with the variation range of the performance rates contracting by 1.0-2.1%. 

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Corresponding author: elena.vlgaft@rambler.ru

Abstract

Competitive performance in modern artistic gymnastics is scored subjectively by expert teams based on the rules of competitions – that are being revised on a regular basis, with changes and amendments made in every Olympic cycle. Group values of technical elements are often revised or the elements are totally excluded from the scoring system. Technical values of elements in every revised version are set by discretional decisions of the Technical Committee members, and this is why the competitive accomplishments in the modern artistic gymnastics are scored so unfairly, with the situation largely hampering progress of the sport discipline in fact. Objective of the study was to provide theoretical grounds for analytical solutions to secure balancing techniques being fairly scored in modern artistic gymnastics. The study data and analyses give theoretical grounds for the following solutions: artistic gymnastics balancing technique difficulty scoring system; individual artistic gymnastics mastery by difficulty and balancing technique versatility rates; and the expert scorings of the artistic gymnastics balancing techniques.