PLoS One. 2017 Nov 16;12(11):e0188184. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0188184. eCollection 2017.
Running agility is required for many sports and other physical tasks that demand rapid changes in body direction. Quantifying agility skill remains a challenge because measuring rapid changes of direction and quantifying agility skill from those measurements are difficult to do in ways that replicate real task/game play situations. The objectives of this study were to define and to measure agility performance for a (five-cone) agility drill used within a military obstacle course using data harvested from two foot-mounted inertial measurement units (IMUs). Thirty-two recreational athletes ran an agility drill while wearing two IMUs secured to the tops of their athletic shoes. The recorded acceleration and angular rates yield estimates of the trajectories, velocities and accelerations of both feet as well as an estimate of the horizontal velocity of the body mass center. Four agility performance metrics were proposed and studied including: 1) agility drill time, 2) horizontal body speed, 3) foot trajectory turning radius, and 4) tangential body acceleration. Additionally, the average horizontal ground reaction during each footfall was estimated. We hypothesized that shorter agility drill performance time would be observed with small turning radii and large tangential acceleration ranges and body speeds. Kruskal-Wallis and mean rank post-hoc statistical analyses revealed that shorter agility drill performance times were observed with smaller turning radii and larger tangential acceleration ranges and body speeds, as hypothesized. Moreover, measurements revealed the strategies that distinguish high versus low performers. Relative to low performers, high performers used sharper turns, larger changes in body speed (larger tangential acceleration ranges), and shorter duration footfalls that generated larger horizontal ground reactions during the turn phases. Overall, this study advances the use of foot-mounted IMUs to quantify agility performance in contextually-relevant settings (e.g., field of play, training facilities, obstacle courses, etc.).