SMU biomechanics experts team with Mark Cuban to research phony falls in basketball

Study will investigate the forces involved in basketball collisions and the possibility of estimating “flopping” forces from video data

Biomechanics experts at Southern Methodist University have teamed with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban to carry out a scientific study of the unsavory practice of player flopping in basketball and other sports.

Flopping is a player’s deliberate act of falling, or recoiling unnecessarily from a nearby opponent, to deceive game officials. Athletes engage in dramatic flopping to create the illusion of illegal contact, hoping to bait officials into calling undeserved fouls on opponents.

The phenomenon is considered a widespread problem in professional basketball and soccer. To discourage the practice, the National Basketball Association in 2012 began a system of escalating fines against NBA players suspected of flopping, including during the playoffs, “NBA announces anti-flopping rules for playoffs.”

The Cuban-owned company Radical Hoops Ltd. awarded a grant of more than $100,000 to fund the 18-month research study at SMU, Dallas.

“The issues of collisional forces, balance and control in these types of athletic settings are largely uninvestigated,” said SMU biomechanics expert Peter G. Weyand, who leads the research team. “There has been a lot of research into balance and falls in the elderly, but relatively little on active adults and athletes.”

The objective of the research is to investigate the forces involved in typical basketball collisions, said Weyand, an associate professor of applied physiology and biomechanics in the SMU Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development.

Study to look at force, motion in basketball collisions
Other members of the SMU research team include: research engineer and physicist Laurence Ryan; Kenneth Clark, doctoral student in the SMU Locomotor Performance Laboratory; and mechanical engineer Geoffrey Brown.

The researchers will look at how much force is required to cause a legitimate loss of balance. They’ll also examine to what extent players can influence the critical level of force via balance and body control. They will also explore techniques by which the forces involved in collisions might be estimated from video or other motion capture techniques.

The research findings could conceivably contribute to video reviews of flopping and the subsequent assignment of fines, Weyand said. “It may be possible to enhance video reviews by adding a scientific element, but we won’t know this until we have the data from this study in hand.”

Weyand is widely recognized as one of the world’s leading scholars on the scientific basis of human performance. His research integrating the biomechanical and physiological basis of athletic performance has advanced scientific understanding and stimulated evidence-based approaches to performance and training practices across the globe.

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SMU is a nationally ranked private university in Dallas founded 100 years ago. Today, SMU enrolls nearly 11,000 students who benefit from the academic opportunities and international reach of seven degree-granting schools. For more information see www.smu.edu.

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