SMU Research Team Studies Player ‘Flopping’ In Sports

SMU biomechanics experts have teamed with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban to study the practice of player flopping in basketball and other sports. The Cuban-owned company Radical Hoops Ltd. awarded a grant of more than $100,000 to fund the 18-month research study.

Peter Weyand

Peter Weyand

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.

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 issues of collisional forces, balance and control in these types of athletic settings are largely uninvestigated,” says SMU biomechanics expert Peter G. Weyand, who leads the research team.

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

Other members of the research team include engineer and physicist Laurence Ryan; Kenneth Clark, doctoral student in the SMU Locomotor Performance Laboratory; and mechanical engineer Geoffrey Brown.

The research findings conceivably could contribute to video reviews of flopping and the subsequent assignment of fines, Weyand says. “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.”

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