With so many people starting to take up this new and exciting sport, and with people such as Tim Emmett, a climber and extreme sports athlete, saying that "Slacklining is where climbing was 30 years ago", I thought it might be time for us to look at some of the potential benefits that slacklining could bring to the outdoor industry and beyond.
Hughes, B. (2014) Ru Slacklining yet?. Horizons. No. 66: 8-11..
The purpose of this study was to identify and describe the basic balance recovery movements performed during slackline balancing. We designed an experimental setting where a controlled perturbation is applied to the slackline and study the movements of athletes to regain a balanced position. Using a Vicon motion capture system and the help of a 15 segment biomechanical model we studied mechanical quantities like the center of mass trajectory, the energy contributions, and also analyzed joint actuation patterns.
Huber, P. and Kleindl, R. (1234) A case study on balance recovery in slacklining. Graz, Austria: Human Performance Research Graz, University & Medical University of Graz, Austria .
Our analysis of the open and closed-loop dynamics shows the existence of an optimal rope sag where balancing requires minimal effort, consistent with qualitative observations and suggestive of strategies for optimizing balancing performance while standing and walking.
Paoletti, P. and Mahadevan, L. (2012) Balancing on tightropes and slacklines. J.R. Soc. interface. Vol. 9: 2097–2108.
‘‘Slacklining’’ represents a modern sports activity where people have to keep balance on a tightened ribbon. The first trials on the slackline result in uncontrollable lateral swing of the supporting leg. Training decreases those oscillations and therefore improves postural control. However, the underlying neural mechanisms are not known. Therefore,the present study aimed to highlight spinal adaptations going along with slackline training. Twenty-four subjects were either assigned to a training or a control group and postural control was assessed before and after the 10 training sessions. Additionally, (H)-reflexes were elicited to evaluate changes in the excitability of the spinal reflex circuitry.
Melle, M., Pfusterschmied, J., Buchecker, M., Muller, E. and Taube, W. (2012) Improved postural control after slackline training is accompanied by reduced H-reflexes. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine &Science in Sport. Vol. 22, No. 4: 471-477.
Balance training is effective not only to improve postural control but also the rate of force development, the jumping behaviour, and the regeneration after injury. Furthermore, balance training reduces the incidence of ankle and knee injuries. The question is how the central nervous system (CNS) adapts in response to balance training in order to fulfil all these (different) actions. The present review article discusses neural adaptations within the CNS, which may be responsible for improving postural control, increasing explosive force and reducing the incidence of lower limb injuries after balance training."
Taube, W. Neurophysiological Adaptations in Response to Balance Training. DtschZ Sportmed 63 (2012) 273-277.
"The present study investigated whether or not four weeks of supervised slackline training (SLT) performed on nylon webbing improves postural stability. Twenty-four healthy adults participated in the study and were assigned to either SLT(n 12) or a control (CON) group (n 12). The SLT group completed a four week training program, while the CON group received no training. Centre of gravity (COG) and joint angles (ankle, knee and hip) were calculated using whole body three-dimensional (3D) kinematic measurements during single leg standing on a stable surface (SS) and on a perturbed surface (PS) before and after training."
Pfusterschmied, J. Buchecker, M. Keller, M. Wagner, H. Taube, W. Müller, E. (2013): Supervised slackline training improves postural stability, European Journal of Sport Science, 13:1, 49-57
"The purpose of this study was to examine the affects and benefits of slacklining on core strength and balance in college age students. Subjects consisted of students enrolled in two activity classes at a Midwest Division III university campus. Students enrolled in the circus arts class formed the experimental group, which consisted of a four-week slacklining treatment; and students in the indoor rock climbing class acted as the control group and did no slacklining during the training period."
Mahaffey, B. Physiological effects of slacklining on balance and core strength. MS in Exercise and Sport Science: Physical Education, August 2009, 62pp.
The lateral ligament complex of the ankle is a frequently injured structure in sports and recreational activities, which often results in chronic ankle instability (CAI). Balance exercise training has become a common component of clinical rehabilitation for CAI to address postural deficits. To determine the effect of balance training on postural stability, this critically appraised topic presents a summary and analysis of 4 relevant studies that address the effectiveness of balance training in subjects with CAI. Information about the methods and sources used in the article is provided. The findings imply that there is moderate evidence that 4–6 wk of balance training can enhance static and dynamic postural stability in subjects with CAI. ."
Wortmann, M. Doherty, C. (2013): Effect of Balance Training on Postural Stability in Subjects With Chronic Ankle Instability, Journal of Sport Rehabilitation, 2013, 22, 143-149.
"The risk of sustaining a fall is particularly high in children and seniors. Deficits in postural control and muscle strength either due to maturation, secular declines or biologic aging are two important intrinsic risk factors for falls. During life span, performance in variables of static postural control follows a U-shaped curve with children and seniors showing larger postural sway than healthy adults. Measures of dynamic postural control (i.e. gait speed) as well as isometric (i.e. maximal strength) and dynamic muscle strength (i.e. muscular power) follow an inverted U-shaped curve during life span, again with children and seniors showing deficits compared to adults. There is evidence that particularly balance and resistance training are effective in counteracting these neuromuscular constraints in both children and seniors. Further, these training regimens are able to reduce the rate of sustaining injuries and falls in these age groups.."
Granacher U. et al. (2011): An Intergenerational Approach in the Promotion of Balance and Strength for Fall Prevention – Gerontology. 2011;57(4):304-15.
Children are less stable than adults during static upright stance. We investigated whether the same holds true for a task that was novel for both children and adults and highly dynamic: single-legged stance on a slackline. We compared 8-year-olds with young adults and assessed the following outcome measures: time on the slackline, stability on the slackline (calculated from slackline reaction force), gaze movement, head-in-space rotation and translation, trunk-in-space rotation, and head-on-trunk rotation. Eight-year-olds fell off the slackline quicker and were generally less stable on the slackline than adults. Eight-year-olds also showed more head-in-space rotation and translation, and more gaze variability around a visual anchor point they were instructed to fixate. Trunk-in-space and head-on-trunk rotations did not differ between groups. The results imply that the lower postural stability of 8-year-olds compared to adults - as found in simple upright stance - holds true for dynamic, novel tasks in which adults lack the advantage of more practice. They also suggest that the lack of head and gaze stability constitutes an important limiting factor in children's ability to master such tasks."
Schärli, A. M., Keller, M., Lorenzetti, S., Murer, K., & van de Langenberg, R. (2013). Balancing on a Slackline: 8-Year-Olds vs. Adults. Frontiers in Psychology, 4, 208
"Objectives: To determine and compare the level of quadriceps activation for knee injured participants during kinetic open-chain, closed-chain and composite-chain (Slackline) clinical exercises. Quadriceps activation is a critical component of lower limb movement and subsequently, rehabilitation. However, selective activation can be difficult due to pain, loss of function and impaired neuro-motor activation. Design: Repeated measures (within-subjects) ANOVA. Methods: Consecutive physiotherapy outpatients (n=49, 41.8±16.8 years, range 13–72 years, 57% female) with an acute (<2 weeks) knee injury were recruited. Participants were assessed for quadri- ceps activation using skin mounted electromyography during five separate clinical quadriceps activation exercises: two open-chain, inner range quads and straight leg raise; two closed-chain, step down and step up; and a composite-chain, slacklining step-up. Outcome measures were: median score on elec- tromyography as measured in microvolts (V); and perceived exertion on an 11-point numerical rating scale. "
Gabel CP, et al. 2013: The influence of ‘Slacklining’ on quadriceps rehabilitation, activation and intensity. J Sci Med Sport
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