WFAA: ‘Flopping’ research could lead to changes in the NBA

Peter Weyand and his team set out nine months ago on a research project dubbed “The Physics of Flopping: Blowing the Whistle on a Foul Practice.”

WFAA TV journalist Jason Wheeler covered the research of SMU biomechanics expert Peter G. Weyand, who is teaming with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban to investigate the forces involved in basketball collisions and the possibility of estimating “flopping” forces from video data.

The coverage, “‘Flopping’ research could lead to changes in the NBA,” was published Dec. 15.

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.

Ken Clark, a fourth year doctoral student in biomechanics at SMU, uses a push bar to simulate "flopping" with SMU student volunteer D'Marquis Allen. (Photo: WFAA)

Ken Clark, a fourth year doctoral student in biomechanics at SMU, uses a push bar to simulate “flopping” with SMU student volunteer D’Marquis Allen. (Photo: WFAA)

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.

The Cuban-owned company Radical Hoops Ltd. awarded a grant of more than $100,000 to fund the 18-month research study at SMU. Weyand is associate professor and director of the SMU Locomotor Performance Laboratory at the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development.

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EXCERPT:

By Jason Wheeler
WFAA

A dramatic gesture is sometimes all it takes to get your opponent in trouble on the basketball court.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s real.

But with money from Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, a research team in Dallas is doing a scientific study on the difference between “fouls” and “flops.”

There are entire pages of compilation videos on YouTube showing the best (or worst, depending on your point of view) examples of “flopping” in the NBA — pro basketball players suspected of embellishing the extent of contact with other players to persuade the ref to blow the whistle.

But how can you really tell — even with a replay — when an athlete is, in fact, faking a foul?

With more than $100,000 in funding from Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, SMU professor Peter Weyand and his team set out nine months ago on a research project dubbed “The Physics of Flopping: Blowing the Whistle on a Foul Practice.”

It’s a whimsical name for a study, but one that could change the way the game is played — or at least officiated.

“We try to have fun doing the science,” Weyand said. “If we are successful with it, there is a lot of potential application.”

This research could change the outcomes of games and even lead to new rules and penalties.

So far, here’s what the SMU researchers have come up with:

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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.

SMU has an uplink facility located on campus for live TV, radio, or online interviews. To speak with an SMU expert or book an SMU guest in the studio, call SMU News & Communications at 214-768-7650.

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