Sport Equipment Evaluation and Optimization – A Review of the Relationship between Sport Science Research and Engineering

G.B. Shan *
4401 University Drive, Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, TIK 3M4, Canada.

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© 2008 Shan et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the 4401 University Drive, Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, TIK 3M4, Canada; el: 1-403-329-2683; Fax: 1-403-380-1839; E-mail:


In current sport equipment evaluation and optimization, most studies consider the body and an equipment together as one system. This is partially because equipment optimization is mainly done through modification of mechanical designs, thus equipment evaluation is conducted through statistical comparisons of how different mechanical designs perform under human usage. However, it is known that any change in the performance environment would cause one to adapt certain aspects of his or her movements. Variation in equipment is considered as such a performance-altering environmental change. Yet, this equipment-induced motor control change is hardly studied in sport equipment evaluation/optimization, such as studies on golf clubs, pole-vaulting poles and hockey sticks. Without a thorough understanding of the interactions between equipment alteration and human motor control adaptation, equipment optimization is like a hit-and-miss game. Therefore this paper aims: 1) to look back at the different generations (eras) in the development of sports equipment, 2) to elaborate the roles of engineering and sport science/motion analysis technology in each generation and 3) to discuss the essence of sport science research in sport equipment optimization, which has evolved beyond pure engineering. One focus of this review is on body-equipment interactions and body movement adjustments in response to different equipment designs. Both these aspects should ideally be included in future studies related to sports equipments.