The Discus Thrower and his Dream Factory
Chapter 9. CBA Grows and the APAS system
CBA was inundated with projects. One of our projects was to examine the progression of movement changes in muscular dystrophy. Muscular Dystrophy (MS) refers to a group of hereditary muscle diseases that weakens the muscles that move the human body. Muscular dystrophies are characterized by progressive skeletal muscle weakness, defects in muscle proteins, and the death of muscle cells and tissue. Nine diseases including Duchenne, Becker, limb-girdle, congenital, facioscapulohumeral, myotonic, oculopharyngeal, distal, and Emery-Dreifuss are always classified as muscular dystrophy, but there are more than 100 diseases in total with similarities to muscular dystrophy. Most types of MD are multi-system disorders with manifestations in body systems including the heart, gastrointestinal and nervous systems, endocrine glands, skin, eyes and even brain. The condition may, also, lead to mood swings and learning difficulties.
The son of our partner, Ken Weinbel, suffered from this debilitating disease so it was a study which was near and dear to our hearts. Whatever we could discover to help this delightful young man and share the information with the medical community would be a reward for all of us. The cause(s) and cure(s) were completely unknown and victims could only try to slow the progress and maintain as much muscular strength as possible to support the body. One factor was known and this was the pattern of deterioration. The degeneration of the muscles followed a very definite pattern which began in the calf muscle and then progressed upward through the other muscles. Our biomechanical quantification of movement was refined sufficiently well to detect changes in a patient’s gait significantly sooner than other diagnostic tools available then. So we embarked on several trials to verify these findings and to attempt the development of a quantification procedure which would assist the doctors who specialized in this area.
We wanted to determine whether any unique progression of the disease was discernible and in what way it affected the mobility of the patient. Using biomechanics, we could compare the walking movements of children with and without the disease. Comparisons of children with normal walking movements to the abnormal pattern of those with MS would, hopefully, reveal some useful results. Our hope was that we could quantify the rate and movement patterns with which the disease progressed. We worked on this project with the Hanover, New Hampshire local hospital.
After collecting all of the films and digitizing the data, I would meet with Tom Sullivan who was the night director in the computer room at the University of Massachusetts. Typically, all computer programs would only be accepted between eight o’clock in the morning until eleven o’clock at night. There was no access to the computer during other hours. However, Tom was a humanitarian who was interested in helping find a cure for this terrible disease. We arranged a system that when I knocked on the appropriate office door, Tom would process the batch programs consisting of thousands of cards even if it were at two o’clock in the morning. By running my data in the middle of the night, I would have the results quickly. Without this assistance, I would have to wait sometimes as long as two days before I could have the data processed.
Interestingly, Tom was an innovator himself. I recall one of our discussions in 1972, after I returned from the Olympics, about his ideas to utilize the potential of hydrogen fuel for cars and solar energy for electricity and heating. It is amazing in the second decade of the 21st century to reflect on these alternative energy sources proposed in 1972. It seems that we have wasted many years to finally arrive at a place with more forward scientific thoughts.
One late evening or more correctly in the middle of the night, I invited Tom to meet Ann and me at the Yankee Peddler for lunch the next day. I would treat him to an excellent meal as a thank you, for all of his assistance with the data processing. I told him to bring the computer outputs with him and save me a trip to the computer center. Tom arrived for lunch with a huge stack of papers. We began a discussion about one of the comparisons among different trial results for Ken Weinbel’s son. I showed Tom how the gait data indicated the rate of his deterioration.
While we were enjoying our lunch and discussing the latest information gleaned from our biomechanical analysis on Ken’s son, I was only vaguely aware of the other dining patrons. We were just in the normal buzz of a lovely restaurant where conversations percolated. I barely noticed the three gentlemen sitting at the table beside us. The few words that reached our table had to do with bank functions and numbers but I was not interested in ease dropping on their conversation anyway.
“Excuse me for intruding,” one of the gentlemen interrupted us, “but did you say you analyze muscular dystrophy?” he asked.
“Yes,” I replied and began to explain what we were doing.
The gentleman had a focused expression on his face and an air of authority. He concentrated, attentively and intensely, to my answers and asked many probing questions regarding the procedures we used. Suddenly, he apologized for not having introduced himself and told us his name was Larry Graham. His interest in the subject, he explained stemmed from his position of president of the Holyoke Hospital and his extensive involvement with the Shriners’ Burn Hospitals throughout the country.
Mr. Graham went on to describe his current activities following the sale of his disposable paper product manufacturing business some years earlier and that, currently, he was primarily focused on his extensive volunteer efforts. For example, his position as the Holyoke Hospital President was for a yearly salary of one dollar. He still owned the local bank in South Hadley, Massachusetts, a nearby city but that was so his daughter at Mt. Holyoke College could cash her checks. He invited us to join their table which we did.
We each described our backgrounds and our current activities. Tom told him about his position at the computer center and how he helped me with many of my computer projects. I told him about my history with Israel and my progress up to, and including, the recent Munich Olympics and my travels to East Germany. Ann told him about her work on the nervous system in her graduate studies and the on-going efforts at our company, CBA. He asked if he could visit our office, so we could show him the methods we used and some of our current projects.
I advised him that I worked from home, and although I used state-of-the-art science and advanced computer technologies, my desk was located in my kitchen. He shrugged off this situation and pointed out that the ideas and concepts we were exploring were more important that the physical environment. We agreed to meet two days later.
That Thursday afternoon in October 1973, Larry knocked on the door of our small house in Belchertown. Ann was digitizing data from the 1972 Olympics. I was on the Teletype connected to the University computer. As usual, we were working diligently.
Larry looked around and was oblivious to the fact that the office was in our kitchen. He carefully examined some of the publications, data sheets and the digitized results and graphic presentations, which were taped to the wall. Then we took him downstairs and described the procedures of analyzing the Universal machine, which was sitting next to a window overlooking the lake. He was so engrossed in our activities and scientific methods that he failed to notice the beautiful view just steps away from where he was standing. He carefully noted all the cameras pointed at the Universal gym equipment. He was very thorough and asked many questions so that hours seemed to fly by in an instant.
After all of this time and questions, Larry stood quietly thinking in our kitchen. Finally, he turned to Ann and me. “Okay you two, here is my assessment of the situation. This is not the way to run a business. Your potential is enormous. However, you are working extremely hard and spending many hours producing a fantastic scientific product but your business practices are appalling and very amateurish. I learned at my father’s knee how to run a business and I was very successful. Not only did my company generate excellent profits, but also it was efficient and growing until the day I sold it to a larger company, which made me an offer that I couldn’t refuse. In addition, I have established a bank and continued as part of its Board of Directors. I am not trying to blow my own horn, but just to illustrate that I know what I am talking about and believe that I can help you. You have each demonstrated to me that you are honorable people and have excellent work ethics, in addition to the valuable and unique work that you do. I think we would make a wonderful and successful team, if you are interested in my help.”
In unison, Ann and I said, “Mr. Graham, what would you suggest?”
Initially, Larry wanted to examine our books and corporate records, meet our partner, and evaluate where the most appropriate office location would be. After he had examined our checkbooks and financial records, he learned that we very messy but, in spite of that limitation, he could see we were already profitable. The next step was to meet our partner, Ken Weinbel, and then we would all decide what should be the next step. If all went well, Larry said that he wanted to find an office in a better location and he would purchase all the equipment that we needed as part of his investment. The next step was to drive to Hanover, New Hampshire to meet Ken Weinbel.
Although Ken was my first and current partner in CBA, at one point in the past, we had anticipated adding my professor, Dr. Stanley Plagenhoef. Ken and I had incorporated CBA in New Hampshire during the 1971 summer break, so when school resumed in the fall, I had been very proud to announce this development to all my friends and teachers. My friends were happy for me but skeptical since all of them were doctoral students and their interests were more on their own studies and a future in academia. This was the same general response from the faculty members except for one man. Dr. Plagenhoef was outraged that I had started a biomechanics company without his approval and involvement. I was so stunned by his reaction I was momentarily speechless. His reasoning was that I was his student and was not allowed to have a company in the business of biomechanics without his participation. I told him that he was more than welcome to be involved and that, in fact, I had eagerly anticipated that he would want to be a part of the company. For the next few months, Dr. Plagenhoef traveled with me to Hanover and he participated in the analysis of many of the sporting events that we had filmed in Munich. In addition, he worked with us on a project with Uniroyal shoes.
Times were tense at CBA whenever Dr. Plagenhoef was in the office. He was a stubborn, rude individual and treated the people helping in the office with disdain. In Amherst, at the University, his behavior was equally unpleasant particularly towards me. He also recruited one of the other faculty members, Dr. Ricci, into his web of hostility. Until that time, Dr. Ricci had been very warm towards my family and me. In fact, when I had first arrived in Amherst, Yael, Geffen, and I felt as though Dr. Ricci had adopted us. How this reversal of attitude could occur was unfathomable at the time and continues to puzzle me.
CBA continued to use the computer system at the University of Massachusetts as well as the one at Dartmouth College in Hanover. One day, as I walked through the maze of engineering offices that separated the parking lot from the computer center, I noticed a computer-generated output from our office in CBA. I was shocked to see that Dr. Plagenhoef’s name was on the output, so I asked the young man standing beside the table what it was. He responded that he and his professor were working on a prosthetic hip project for Smith-Kline and that Dr. Stanley Plagenhoef’s company was providing three-dimensional walking data to them. He was struggling to try to determine why the forces were not correctly aligned. I explained that the data was not three-dimensional since, at that time, it was impossible to calculate all of the orthogonal axes needed. What the data presented was two separate walking motions taken in sequence with each single motion representing a two-dimensional result. Combining two separate actions into a three-dimensional representation would be impossible. Therefore, his efforts would never align the forces.
I confronted Dr. Plagenhoef as soon as I was able to track him down. He was as inflexible as always. He did not care that the professor and Smith-Kline were being misled by the data which he deceptively offered as three-dimensional.
“You know it is not three-dimensional. You are lying to them. It is worse than that because they are working with a reputable medical company on a hip replacement which will be put inside some innocent person’s body.” I was outraged by his immorality. He was unmoved and left the room without another word. Apparently the matter was moot.
Shortly after that, Ken and I discussed the advantages and disadvantages of including Dr. Plagenhoef in our company with a third of the shares. The advantages were that he had quite a positive and international reputation in the field of biomechanics and he had already demonstrated that he could attract paying projects since we had worked on Uniroyal and the Smith-Kline with him. The disadvantage was his difficult personality, his questionable ethical behavior, and his proven track record of keeping the project money rather than putting it into the company.
Finally, Ken and I decided that his positive contributions were greater than his limitations. Ann was opposed to giving any shares to Dr. Plagenhoef since she felt that we did not owe him anything. She appreciated his contribution to our knowledge and for having been our teacher but she continued to doubt his ethics and veracity. Her opinion was that if he could be deceitful once, there was nothing to prevent him from being dishonest again.
Nonetheless, Ken and I decided to meet Dr. Plagenhoef in a restaurant in Putney, Vermont, since it was a good halfway point between our homes. The meeting was another one of those jaw-dropping shocks that I should have anticipated. Dr. Plagenhoef insisted on owning the majority of the shares, Ken Weinbel would have only a few token shares because of his financial investment, and I was to have zero shares. I would be allowed to work on projects when Dr. Plagenhoef felt that I could contribute. Ken and Dr. Plagenhoef began to argue and shout at each other to the bemusement of other diners. Finally, I mentioned that I was the youngest one of the three yet I was the only person at the table who was acting like an adult. This statement brought the conversation down to a normal sound level. Finally, Ken and I told Dr. Plagenhoef that we would discuss the situation and let him know what we decided.
After Dr. Plagenhoef left the restaurant, without contributing any money to the cost of the meal, Ken and I agreed that Dr. Plagenhoef would not be a positive nor contributing factor to CBA. In fact, it had become abundantly clear that his goal was to take over our company and dispatch us as soon as he found ways to accomplish this feat. It was quite a relief that both of us saw the same perspective and were readily able to agree that Dr. Plagenhoef would not be joining us.
By 1972, however, we were ready to entertain the possibility of Larry Graham becoming a partner in CBA. We met in Hanover, New Hampshire at Ken’s home. Everybody was enthusiastic about growing and having someone with Larry’s business connections and skills to work with us. We decided to share the company, one-third each between Ken, Larry, Ann and me. Thus, we embarked on the beginning of a new phase in the growth and development CBA.
Before officially becoming a partner, Larry wanted to conduct a due diligence study with an independent company to gauge the upside potential of CBA. Larry recognized that, like most inventors who own companies, I was a dreamer and what could sound like a good idea to me may not have commercial value. Larry’s intention was not only to create a better, more competitive company, but also to make sure that all of our efforts would be rewarded with profits and the company would be able to stand on its own merits.
Ken Weinbel was acquainted with a graduate program at Dartmouth College which studied the viabilities of companies. He contacted one of the professors, Cliff Lewis, who taught the course and who also had his company, Marketing Communications Inc. Cliff was more than a little curious about a foreign Olympic athlete starting a company whose purpose was to measure motion. He readily agreed to study our company and assigned it a top priority as a graduate student project. The person in charge of the research was Professor Bither at the Amos Tuck School which was a leading professional school at Dartmouth College. These two groups and their students spent an entire semester researching CBA. They examined the potential products, companies, and the financial likelihood of success as well as of failure.
- CBA represents the first incorporation to bring biomechanical analysis to commercial usefulness.
- The market potential was unlimited. The biomechanical analysis could be used wherever forces are applied in a biological link system, i.e. animal, human, horse, etc.
- Commercial uses could include the entire market for:
- Athletic equipment design, e.g., ski boots, special shoes, golf clubs, tennis rackets, etc.
- Safety equipment design, e.g., automobile air bags
- Insurance claims, especially with disability related to real or fraudulent causes
- Designs for artificial limbs
- Surfaces modifications where the human body interfaces, e.g., shoes, floors, etc.
- Educational opportunities, e.g., clinics for golfers, tennis players, ballet dancers, or other sporting events
In just a few weeks, Larry found an office for us on Route 9 near Amherst College, which was one of the five institutes of higher learning in the town. The space was between a sandwich shop and a paint store at 316 College Street. We had a reception area separated by a wall from the rest of the office. Behind the wall was the digitizing and computer area. The remainder of the office had desks for staff and computing, two large testing areas, a conference room, as well as, showers and bathrooms. We could conduct any number of research projects within the different areas. Larry’s investment in us was substantial. It included furniture, new computer terminals, an oscilloscope, a new digitizer, a screen saver terminal by Techtronic, and new high-speed cameras, which operated electronically, rather than the old spring, loaded ones.
We did not discuss the amount of his investment but I believe it must have approached $100,000, which would be closer to $500,000 in today’s dollar value. It was not that I was disinterested in Larry’s financial contributions but my interests were on the incredible new equipment and more sophisticated office/laboratory environment. With this new and improved setting, it seemed that our biomechanical opportunities were unrestricted. My excitement grew with the idea that CBA was ready to go “Big Time”.
This was how our company and our lives changed. All these changes and a new, wonderful partner arose from a chance meeting at a dinner in the Yankee Peddler. Both then and now, we reflect on the luck we had in meeting Larry Graham and realize what a fantastic opportunity he created for our future successes and us. We will always remember Larry with fondness and joy.
Our staff became an amalgam of brilliant and eccentric personalities. Ann ran the whole office and did hours and hours of manual digitizing. Carl Peterson was a programmer from Dartmouth College and he was a fast, creative programmer in the BASIC language. Together, Carl and I created the original biomechanical software in 1971. Carl was such an unusual person that one day we learned that he would play his trumpet in the shower at the dorm. In spite of some of his personality quirks, he was a brilliant programmer. We also hired Alan Blitzblau, who worked in the Computer Center at the University of Massachusetts, but was available part-time to work with us. His specialty was FORTRAN and APL languages. Alan was responsible for many of the software modules that we developed and he worked with me for 18 years. Alan’s family lived on their own farm and raised goats, chickens, and grew much of their own food. It was a wonderful treat during the summer months when Alan would bring homegrown tomatoes and other vegetables to share. I met Jim Walton at a conference where he presented a research paper related to three-dimensional movement. Jim, at that time, was a student at Penn State University. I persuaded Jim to complete his doctoral program, quickly, and come to work with us in Amherst. I was very excited about the work that he had done in resolving three-dimensional results from multiple camera views. Jim was very instrumental in the developed of that part of our software program.
They were both experts in hardware and software. Justin and Peter were particularly valuable with the creation of some of our more usual testing and product needs.
But the most important programmer in our history literally walked in off the street. One day, I was working in the front office concentrating on our current tennis ball project. It was 1974, so we had been in this office for more than a year. Because our office was located between a sandwich shop and a paint store, we frequently had people coming through the front door who had actually intended to eat or buy paint. In addition, many people were mainly curious about what we actually did since the sign above the door was a mystery topic to most folks. All of us had all become immune to these unexpected gawkers. However, this time a hippie, whose hair was so long and his beard so covered his face that he resembled a bear more than a man, opened the office door and stepped into the office.
My first thoughts were that he was homeless and hoping for some financial assistance. Before I could reach into my pocket, he introduced himself as Jeremy Wise. Furthermore, he had not just randomly wandered by, but was the professor of two of our best technical staff, Justin Milliun and Peter Smart!! What a shock I experienced at that moment.
Dr. Wise explained that his two students had described our company to him and suggested that he visit us. I chatted for a few minutes about these two student geniuses and then I took him on a tour of the office.
“What’s your background?” I asked with no expectation of any area that would relate to our research projects.
Now this guy, who looked like a hippie, dropped another bombshell. Jeremy had a Ph.D. in Nuclear Physics, had performed his dissertation research at Brookhaven Labs in Long Island, and currently was a professor in the Physics Department of the University of Massachusetts. I was speechless and wondered what to do next.
At that point, I was perplexed as to whether this fellow was for real or some fruitcake imagining his place of grandeur in the Universe. This was the early 1970s and the United State was riding a countrywide wave of anti-war protests and lots of drug use. He could see the skepticism in my eyes.
“Let me program something for you. Give me a test to see if we are compatible and if I have any skills or abilities that you can use,” he suggested.
Suddenly an idea popped into my mind, so I responded: “Why don’t you program the stock market for me?” He asked for details. I told him to select ten companies, learn the symbols, and look in the business section of the newspaper for all of the details that are published. Then prepare a printed report with all the functions used in the stock market exchange and anything else that he considered would be of interest to an investor based on his program. I told him that I would pay $10 for each hour he spent on it and to come back to the office whenever the finished product.
“Whatever you do,” I said, “you need not worry about getting paid.” The minimum wage at that time was $4 per hour, so I was sure that my offer was more than fair. He agreed and left the office. At that moment in time, I was sure that I would never see him again or, if he did return, it would be because he had failed, but still wanted some financial compensation.
To my surprise, Jeremy was back in two days.
“How’s the project going?” I asked, expecting to hear of his problems.
He responded, “I finished it. Do you want me to demonstrate the results to you?”
We sat together beside a computer and he loaded his program. Then he demonstrated the program and the step-by-step results in remarkable detail. Nothing was missing. In addition to what I had suggested, Jeremy had included some graphs and charts which showed the trend of each stock over a time period, as well as, comparison graphs for the overall market performances. I could not believe it. It would have taken me at least a year to do what he did in a few days. I said, “Jeremy, you are hired. I do not know at this moment what you will do but you are obviously a genius with computer programming. That is more than enough justification until we can find something that you like and we can use.”
So, Jeremy started working with CBA in 1974 and he is still working for us, as you read this book. His contributions have been a mainstay of the company. Together we created the most sophisticated biomechanical programs in the world from 1971 to 2017 and we continue to develop others. We created software for mainframe and personal computers, as well as, a computerized Exercise Machine. Our working and personal relationship have always been strong and unbreakable. He is a fantastic and loyal person to Ann, CBA and me. We value his friendship for all of these years and plan for our wonderful relationship to continue.
At the same time that Jeremy was working on the stock market test program, Universal Gym was looking for more input on new designs. With our larger lab and more extensive and varied staff in Amherst, we were able to provide Universal with even more detailed information for equipment designs, as well as retrofitting, some of their older models. Universal sent us all the hardware that they wanted us to reconfigure.
- Re-test: Leg Extensions to determine the muscular outputs (Force curves) and adjust the resistance intensity if needed.
- Determine the resistive formula for a Standing Leg Curl exercise.
- Determine the resistive formula for Lat Pull Down exercise on the Universal hi-pulley station.
- Study the variables for junior-age boys. This data would be incorporated into the design of a new and smaller junior high machine.
- Test resistive formulas for women on the: Bench Press, Shoulder Press, Lat Pull Down, Hip Abductors, and Adductors.
- Determine the resistive formula for: Seated Arm Curls and Triceps Extension exercises.
- Determine the resistive formula for Pullover exercise from both prone and seated positions.
- Determine the resistive formula for neck exercises, such as, lateral, rotation, extension, and flexion.
With our expertise in analyzing human movement and human-machine interaction, we had additional ideas. Our intension was to follow some basic principles which relate to strength development. Our goal was to create a machine that helped people maximize their strength at every point in the exercise range of movement. The human body consists of many lever systems which make up the arms, legs, spine, etc. However, these lever systems change as the person moves. For example, if someone holds a 10-pound weight in their hand with their arm extended, this weight and position are probably quite comfortable. However, if that person keeps the arm straight and tries to raise the hand holding the weight, it becomes more difficult and often, the weight is too heavy for the person to lift with the arm straight out. Imagine, a little genie that could remove weight as the arm was raised so the weight became lighter until it was possible to add some of the weight back to its original size. In other words, when the arm was in the position of the greatest biomechanical disadvantage, commonly referred to in weight training as the sticking point, a person needs to exert more muscular effort than when the arm was in the original, mechanically advantageous position. When the human lever system is at its greatest advantage, the muscular force diminishes in order to lift the same maximum external load. Therefore, the variability that exists in muscle force is due primarily to the changing advantages and disadvantages created by the human lever system.
The illustration on the right graphically illustrates the changes in muscular forces that occur when the arm is bent while holding a 10 kg load. As the levers move, the amount of force needed to raise the load increases.
The task for us was to evaluate each of the Universal Gym stations from the prospective of:
- Determining the actual force applications
- Whether the forces were correct from an exercise point of view
- How to modify the unit if it was necessary and appropriate
We proceeded to use our biomechanical analysis technique to evaluate the actual performance curves which were produced by someone exercising on each of the Universal Gym stations. We were easily able to establish that muscles were only working at their maximum potential during a very small range of the total movement (normally only at the sticking points). In other words, our tests revealed that before and after the sticking points of the exercise the contribution to the strength development of the muscle was greatly reduced. An example of a generated force curve showing the range of motion is shown on the next page. This curve illustrates that much of the activity is below the muscles’ ability to produce force. The only time the muscle actually has to work harder is during the sticking point portions.
In order to develop maximum conditioning effectiveness, the resistance must be accurately varied. Our corrections or modifications to each station were designed to increase the resistance before and after the sticking point. With this modification to the level system of the equipment, it becomes possible to maintain the same degree of muscular involvement (effort) throughout the entire range of movement.
In addition to our project with Universal Gym, we added some extensive, complicated projects to our list of things to do. One of these would change our business dramatically. We were hired to analyze athletic shoes.
Following my 1972 scientific presentation at the Olympics, Mr. Hans Brink, the head of Public Relations, had approached me for the Adidas Shoe Company. He wanted to discuss some of the ideas which I had raised during my presentation to the coaches and athletes at the conference.
“Which ideas?” I asked him.
“We are especially interested in what you said about shoes and body weight. You said that it does not make sense that a person wears shoe size 11 and weighs 100 kg (230 lbs.)., yet would wear the same model shoe size if he weighed 75 kg. (140 lbs.) You said the shock absorption should be different for different weights,” was his answer. I was intrigued that he remembered this details from my talk. Since we each had foreign accents, we had to concentrate intensely to understand each other clearly.
“Yes, people should be thought of as weight bearing machines in the same way that the car industry works with tires. Cars and trucks have tires, which are appropriate for the load they have to carry, as well as frictional requirements during use. The automotive manufacture does not select the tire based on color or design. Furthermore, they do not support the ‘One Size Fits All’ philosophy which is common with shoe manufacturers,” I said. I reached into my briefcase and pulled some preliminary work, which we were conducting for the National Bureau of Standards in Washington, D.C. The research for them dealt with the “Slip and Fall Situations” between shoes and surfaces in specific settings, such as restaurant kitchens. The floor in the kitchen is normally a smooth hard surface because it must be easy to clean. However, since food and liquids are frequently spilled, the floor is usually wet. On the other hand, the floor in the restaurant is normally carpeted. Thus, the employee needs attractive appearing shoes but which have the appropriate frictional requirements for walking on both surfaces and while carrying a tray laden with dishes. This is on-going research for us.” I explained.
Mr. Brinks seemed very intrigued by my ideas and our research project. He thanked me for my time and assured me that we would receive a rapid response from Adidas. He implied that there would be some research projects proposed by them in the near future. I thanked him for his interest and we parted.
Soon after I returned to Amherst from the Munich Olympics, Hans Brink wrote me that Mr. Adi Dassler, the President, wanted to meet me. They even would fly me to Herzogenaurach, the home city of Adidas, to meet with him, their staff, and some of their engineers. Since I had agreed to participate in a conference in Munich, Germany, in a few months, we decided to schedule the meeting around that time. Following the conference, I would go visit with Mr. Dassler and his staff members.
The morning of the Adidas meeting was filled with discussions of biomechanics, the analytic procedures, and proposed research ideas. The morning hours passed quickly because of the intensity of discussions. Suddenly, the announcement came that it was time for lunch. As we pushed our chairs back from the table to go to the cafeteria, Mr. Dassler asked me to come to his office. We both walked slowly towards his office as we continued discussing some of the ideas raised during the morning discussions.
When we entered Mr. Dassler’s office, I thought I had been transported to somewhere in intergalactic space. There were advanced technological gadgets and equipment all over the office. His desk and furniture looked to be made of solid gold in addition to the gold shoes displayed on the walls. The pictures and wall decorations were obviously priceless and were lighted in the same manner as would be found in a museum. His office must have cost millions of German marks to build and equip. But what, I thought to myself, did I expect from the man who was the sole owner of the largest shoe company in the world with millions of shoes and clothes sold every year? In addition, Adidas was the brand that every child, athlete, and weekend sports participant wanted to wear. Adidas was at the peak of consumer desire and clearly this office reflected some of this worldwide adoration. His office mirrored the extensive financial and power that a man in his capacity had.
While I attempted to recover from the initial shock of his office, Mr. Dassler then took me into one of the closets in his office. It was a large, spacious, well-lighted walk-in closet neatly organized with rows of shirts, pants, suits, and drawers in addition to an enormous number of dress and athletic shoes. Among the hangers of suits, he pulled out a beautiful SS officer’s uniform and held it up in the light. This was not what I had expected to see in his office and it seemed like a very odd display item for an Israeli visitor. I asked him if he had been an SS officer in the German Army in World War II and hoped that the answer was “no” and that the uniform was just a weird souvenir from the War.
He admitted that he had been an SS officer but justified this position by admitting that, “My responsibilities were against the Germans, not the Jews.” Somehow, in his mind, this was sufficient vindication.
Immediately I blurted out, “Well the Germans only fought the Germans, right?”
The discussion ended at that point and was never revisited. We then went on to lunch with Mr. Vogler, the chief Adidas engineer. Many ideas were discussed regarding all types of shoes and their use in different areas including: construction workers, medical personnel, and, of course, athletics. Finally, we decided that for initial research efforts we should concentrate on their current core business and address the athlete in the shoe. They wanted to measure the forces in the shoe and how the body reacts with the athletic shoe.
Shortly after our meetings at the Adidas center in Germany, I received a letter from the staff and Mr. Dassler is thanking me for taking the time and effort to meet with them. More importantly for CBA was Adidas’ offer to work with me using biomechanical analysis on their shoes.
Our relationship with Adidas began with a number of studies on the interaction between shoes and athletes as well as shoes with non-athletes. We had the proper cameras to analyze body movements with their kinematic parameters, such as: velocities, accelerations, momentum, and interaction between the legs and the arms as well as other biomechanical parameters.
However, we did not have a mechanism to measure the force inside the shoes. For that, we needed force plates. A force plate is a device to measure the forces in three orthogonal directions when you contact the ground. This contact force platform device would allow us to determine the actual forces at various parts of the foot during the contact time with the ground. By measuring the forces produced by a bare-footed runner, we would have an indication of his or her individual shock absorbing characteristics. Placing different surfaces directly on the plate surface and repeating the run would give an indication how much, if any, the surface provided any shock absorbing characteristics. Finally, wearing different shoes, we would be in a position to evaluate the response of the shoe to the runner.
One goal was to develop shoes with appropriate shock absorbing function. We were interested in designing shoes that absorbed impact forces but, as the runner transferred weight forward towards the toes, returned energy to the runner in a rebound action. My idea was to prevent injuries due to impact and, in addition, to return energy to the runner during the push-off phase of the stride. With non-athletic shoes, we wanted to determine the frictional capacities of the shoes and the requirements associated with each task. This was a natural outgrowth of our National Bureau of Standards study on restaurant shoe requirements.
Thus, one of our initial hardware purchases for the Adidas project was a force platform. At that time, the Swiss company, Kistler, was only one that made force plates. Their platform was based on the Pizeo-electric Principle with specialized disks internally imbedded near the four corners and which produced incredibly accurate results. We purchased two of these force plates at an unbelievably high price at that time of $30,000.00. (In 2016, $30,000.00 would be $172,646.00 due to inflation.)
Our next task was to construct a mechanism to load the shoes inside and see how the material responded. This device used a hydraulic cylinder and was controlled by a computer. Since there was no device like this in the world, we were forced to invent one. This device allowed us to impact materials and this testing procedure was unique. All other testing equipment available for material testing could only stretch materials. Stretching seemed inappropriate to us since runners pushed down upon their shoes. No one pulls up on the soles of their shoes during normal usage. In addition, the computer allowed us to change the force impact levels so they simulated forces produced by actual human performances. If the test impacts were too small or too large, the results would be meaningless in the real world of footwear.
In addition, we needed to measure the response of the muscles and the muscular involvement at each phase of a stride during various activities. Evaluation of the electrical activity of the muscle, during movement necessitates the use of special devices known as Electromyography (EMG). At that time, small disk electrodes were placed on different muscle groups and the electrical activity was recorded during the various activities such as walking, jogging, or running. The electrical activity could then be coordinated with the force plate results and the biomechanical kinematic parameters.
Employing cameras, biomechanical analyses, force plates, and EMG, we were able to measure what the human body was doing inside and outside of the shoe. We configured the force plates according to the motion being studied. Running strides required different placement locations and differed from a straight-line activity, such as the shot put. For each sporting event, the plates were relocated as appropriate for the event’s execution.
In 1972, no one had yet started thinking about how shoes related to the athlete’s actual performance. We were aware that even in a gentle exercise, such as jogging, there is a perceptible change in the elements of each stride when compared to walking. In our measurements, we found that many joggers land first on the heel and then they roll forward. This is very different from walking. Joggers can generate forces which are three times their body weight when they land on the ground. This sends a shock wave through the ankle toward the knee, the hip, and then up through the spinal area. The heel in an ordinary shoe may suffice for an easy walk but it will not do for the much greater loads imposed in jogging and, even worse, when running fast.
Some joggers land with their entire foo, such that the impact crushes the arch. Other joggers imitate the action of runners who touch down on the forefoot, roll back toward the heel, but may never actually bring the heel in contact with the surface. A third technique is that the jogger lands on the heel, rolls towards the outside edge of the foot prior to landing on the full foot, and then pushes off with the ball and toes.
From the standpoint of absorbing the punishment of the 3-times-body-weight force, it is preferable to land on the forefoot so that the ball of the foot, with its rounded contour and spongy character, can absorb some of the landings. The faster one runs, the more severe the impact. We measured how the combined action of the ligaments, muscles, and tendons was able to spread the trauma of the touchdown.
We examined the primary biomechanical differences between walking and running. One way to distinguish walking from running, is by examining the swing phase of each gait. Running utilizes a double swing phase of the legs meaning that one leg swings forward, then the foot touches the ground, followed by the other leg swinging forward. In running, the body can be totally airborne for a period of time.
Walking, on the other hand, has at least one foot in contact with the ground for the entire gait cycle. In walking, one must elevate the body and then fall forward and employs a double support phase. The biomechanics of walking simulates an egg-rolling end over end. A walker pushes off almost vertically, lifting the body, combating gravity, during which the leg muscles perform positive work. The potential energy of the uplifted body becomes kinetic energy during the fall phase which is accompanied by positive muscle movements.
Jogging, even at a slow pace, such as seven kilometers (4.5 miles) per hour, involves a substantially different locomotive operation. For the biomechanics of jogging or running, the analogy is not a symmetric end-over-end rolling egg but rather a symmetrically bouncing ball. Running is associated with the foot, first striking the ground, transference into the mid-support phase, and finally foot push off. In running, the leg must actively contract to prevent the ankle, knee, and hip joint from bending due to the weight of the upper half of the body and the generated force.
Additionally, we found that muscles accumulate energy in the same way that a ball with elastic properties does upon impact. That elasticity contributes to the running dynamics much as a trampoline assists a gymnast. The action could also be likened to dribbling a basketball where one combines the force of the hand and the elasticity of the bouncing ball. An over-inflated ball will bounce higher compared to a ball having a low internal pressure since the compliance coefficient (i.e. property of material undergoing elastic deformation accompanied by change in volume when subjected to an applied force) is greater. The same response occurs in humans since the muscular compliance factor determines how much energy the muscle can recover.
CBA’s research with shoe designs was an active effort covering years of work. We learned everything that we could about feet as anatomical units and as their connectivity to the rest of the body. We had to design very specific equipment to measure the forces impacting the shoes as described earlier. Another device we developed was a mechanical leg which was controlled by the computer. The leg was designed to simulate specific points of impact which exactly determined by the kinematic measurements obtained during actual running or walking events. This data yielded more precise impact information for different areas of the shoe and reflect actual measured running or walking conditions.
As previously mentioned, we invented a testing apparatus designed to apply the computer-controlled stress levels on different parts of the shoes. The purpose of the device was to determine the force and recovery characteristics of the material in different parts of the shoe in response to a wide range of duration and direction of force application. The device could be programmed to duplicate the force and the length of time that the foot actually produced during the various modes of walking and running. It was the only mechanism in the world that worked under compression and tension according to our software instructions.
Following our extensive research on the motions of walking and running, we provided Adidas with the information they had requested, as well as numerous recommendations for redesigns of some of their athletic shoes. Many of our ideas were incorporated in their shoe designs for several years.
In 1975, the International Society of Biomechanics met in Yavascula, Finland. I was invited to present a paper on the “Design of Athletic Shoes”. I had to be careful not to reveal confidential information but to focus on the methods which I was using in research and design concepts in athlete shoe designs.
This presentation was extremely helpful in allowing our biomechanics company to present some of the exciting and dynamically new shoe designs. Our research for Adidas had given us the knowledge and the equipment that no other company or individual had available for studying shoes.
One person who heard about our research for Adidas and my shoe presentation in Finland was Roberto Mueller, an Argentinean who lived in New York. I received a phone call from him shortly after I returned from Finland. Mr. Mueller inquired about our research techniques and what we were doing in the area of sporting shoes. I told him that our studies were completely confidential to each client and we would not share any information with him relative to our clients’ research. He was quite relieved to hear my statement and proceeded to inquire whether we could meet and discuss topics relevant to him, but which, in no way, would conflict with our other clients. Naturally, I agreed and we set an appointment for our laboratory in Massachusetts.
Shortly after this phone conversation, Mr. Mueller appeared in my office. He was elegantly dressed and had the impeccable manners of a sophisticated South American diplomat or extremely successful businessman. He introduced himself with a strong accent (although I probably should not talk!). At that time, we had several Israelis working at CBA on various projects. One of them was Avraham Melamed with whom I had roomed at the Munich Olympics and who was now a student of mine working toward his Ph.D. at the University of Massachusetts. Robert Baron was another Israeli who worked in the computer science department.
Mr. Mueller and I were in the conference room discussing future projects for his shoe company. In fact, he told me that he wanted to build a whole new line of shoes for his company, Pony. I liked Mr. Mueller but I was sure that he must be the son of one the Nazis that had run away from Europe after World War II to escape the justice to be imparted by the victorious Allies. During one of the coffee breaks, I quietly murmured in Hebrew to Avraham and Robert that, “This Roberto Mueller from Argentina must be a son of a Nazi. After all, many of the Muellers ran away from Germany to Argentina after the war.” I continued, still in Hebrew, “Whatever he wants to do with us we will charge him three times because of his Nazis background.”
After the coffee break, we returned to the issue of the proposed research projects that CBA could perform for Pony based on Mr. Mueller’s expressed interest. Eventually, lunchtime arrived and we organized the group into separate cars to go to one of the local restaurants. I drove my VW camper to the restaurant in town with Mr. Mueller sitting next to me in the front and two members of my staff in the rear seats. Suddenly, in perfect Hebrew, I heard, “So, how are things going?”
In the past, it had occurred that I had found myself talking to someone in Hebrew thinking I was speaking in English. But it had never happened that someone spoke to me in English but I heard it in perfect Hebrew. I looked around and realized that this question had come from Mr. Mueller, our Argentinian German Nazi visitor. I leaned toward him and asked, “Did you just talk to me in Hebrew?”
He answered in Hebrew, “Yes, in fact I served in the Israeli military for three years.”
“Are you Jewish?” I asked in continued astonishment.
“Of course,” he answered in Hebrew. Needless to say, I experienced extreme embarrassment. I asked him if he heard what I had said to Avraham and Robert in the office. He nodded again and responded in Hebrew, “Of course.”
“From that comment, I realize that we will experience an excellent business relationship. We will do business together and be good friends because of your background, knowledge, biomechanical expertise, and feisty attitude!” he replied. “Please call me Roberto from now on instead of that stuffy ‘Mr. Mueller’ title.” He was right. We became good friends and worked closely for many years.
The parent company of Pony was CITC (Consolidated International Trading Company). We would have to negotiate with CITC regarding the type, extent, and cost of the research that Roberto wanted us to perform for him. The “King of Shoes”, Mr. Jonas Center, owned CITC. It was amazing to me that Mr. Center was a lawyer who owned a shoe company. He became the owner of the company when one of his former clients had paid his legal fee by transferring ownership of the shoe company to Mr. Center.
Although that shoe company had gone out of business but Mr. Center had been able to retain its exclusive contract for the importation of all shoes from Korea. At that time in the 1970s, nearly all shoes were manufactured Korea, so it resulted in a terrifically profitable business for Mr. Center. He eventually developed some of his own shoe ventures, including Pony, as well as allowing other companies to pay the license fee for other Korean shoe imports. One of the more notable companies importing Korean footwear under Mr. Center’s contract was JC Penney’s.
I drove to New York to meet with Mr. Center, Roberto, and the engineering staff. Everything went well and we agreed on an initial shoe project for Pony. It was a strong and rewarding relationship between our companies and it lasted for many years. We developed the most functional shoes in the world for them and, even by today’s standards, the shoe designs were excellent.
The long relationship with Pony and CITC involved several large projects associated with the design of new shoes. Our first research projects were to study existing basketball and tennis shoes. After we analyzed what was currently available and determined the force and performance needs of the players, we designed the optimal shoes for each of these sports.
The research for Pony and the CITC companies spanned nearly a decade from 1975 to 1984. Thousands of pairs of shoes were supplied for testing to CBA. Hundreds of data collection sessions were conducted at our laboratory, at the Olympic Games, and at national competitions. CBA had an enormous data bank for athletic performance and for the shoe requirements in order to develop the best shoes in the World.
In 1981, CITC contracted CBA to do additional research. They wanted us to construct baseball and walking shoes. In the meantime, CBA had received royalties on every shoe that was manufactured by Pony or any of the related companies which utilized our research designs. Our contract resulted in 10 cents for every shoe CITC produced utilizing the CBA research.
Luckily, Korean shoe imports were still the primary source for athletic shoes at least for the mass market in America. Adidas and Puma were imported from Europe so we derived no royalties from them. However, those brands were more expensive which resulted in smaller sales volumes for them. Millions of shoes arrived in the U.S. from Korea utilizing our designs. The royalty stream allowed us to purchase new equipment including our own high-powered computer in our laboratory. Ann and I were not the personality types to spend money on fancy clothes or expensive cars. The money was returned to CBA. Our new partner, Larry Graham, was pleased that this was our philosophy and practice.
Besides contributing to our economic profitability, our research with Pony and CITC gave us national notoriety in leading magazines across the field. Pony and CITC approved each article and, frequently, they contacted the journals directly and suggest that CBA was an interesting topic for their readers. It was a good marketing tactic for Pony, to be sure.
One of the journals which the Pony staff contacted for an article was the Canadian Footwear Journal. The name of the article was “Computerized Footwear” and began with the following statement:
How one man’s mind is thrusting athletic footwear design into areas which border on science fiction, but which are based on science fact.
Working with Pony, gave us access to many great athletes and we worked with them on their performance skills as well as trying to develop the proper shoes for their activity. Many of the shoes we created were instrumental in helping people achieve world records. I will mention only a few of our unique shoes that were designed for these special people.
At that time, Mac Wilkins was one of the best U.S. discus throwers. We traveled to several international track meets to obtain kinematic data on Mac while he performed in actual competitive environments. After obtaining this film data and performing biomechanical processes on it, we invited Mac to come to our laboratory. Within our laboratory setting, Mac attempted to recreate the discus throw movements utilizing two force plates, EMG, as well as additional kinematic calculations. These were long, laborious procedures, but necessary if we were to design shoes for Mac that truly reflected his actual performance.
In the discus throw, the athlete turns more than 360 degrees. This means that the rotational friction of the shoe sole on the rotating leg, which is Mac left leg, should be minimal. However, just prior to the release of the discus, the athlete should have no slippage either forwards or backwards. Any foot slippage or movement will result in a loss of energy. If the energy is not lost because of this foot movement, then the thrower can impart more force, or energy, into the discus. Providing that all other factors are correct, the result of great force on the discus should produce a longer throw.
With these frictional needs in mind, we designed a shoe that would minimize the foot movement in the forward and backward plane, but would not inhibit or reduce the spinning or twisting motion of the foot. Careful examination of the shoes revealed small dimples on the sole. These dimples were structured to provide minimal rotational friction but allow the foot to remain solidly on the ground while preventing forward and backward sliding. This shoe contributed to Mac’s world record in the discus.
Another shoe we designed for Pony was for sprinting. The sole of the shoe had a wedge, which kept the heel elevated. This provided two advantages to the sprinter. The first was to change the posture and balance by shifting the weight forward over the toes. Secondly, by elevating the bottom of the sole away from the heel, the runner was able to utilize the elastic energy stored in the foot and calf segments to rebound. Both of these advantages contributed to saving a few milliseconds on each stride. For a 100-meter sprint, this could result in a 300-millisecond advantage. At that time, such a shoe design was legal and is shown on the right.
For sports that require cleats and other traction devices, we used our technology to create shoes with the optimal location for the cleats. Activities that benefited from this optimization included long jump, high jump, baseball, and golf. An example of one of these shoes where cleats could be screwed into the sole just before competition or practice began is shown on the right.
The most popular shoe that Pony developed, based on our research and ideas, was the jogging shoe with the Variable Sole. The “variable” in the name reflected the two different parts and needs of the sole. The rounded dimples, or buttons, on the outer side and sole were for shock absorption which occurred when the foot initially hit the ground. The ridges or tractor-tread design under the ball of the foot was to provide traction during the portion of ground contact when the foot rolled toward the push phase. This part of the design increased traction on the ground during the time that less shock absorption was needed. The photo above shows the jogging shoe with the Variable Sole design.
During our years of research with Pony, we made many unexpected discoveries for them and their shoes. A few of these realizations were:
- Sprinters have no need for spikes. The need for shock absorption qualities is also minimal because the body motion is vigorous and effectively counters the landing. The sole should be firm to enhance the push-off.
- The slower pace of the long distance runner and a large number of repetitions of foot contact make friction, wear, and shock absorption extremely important. We recommended that the sole flex should allow a smooth convex curve as the heel moves upward.
- Cross-country runners should wear the same basic shoe as distance runners, but with two additions. Because of the possibility of stepping on small projections (stones, ridges, etc.), the sole must have more rigidity for the distribution of the force. Uphill running causes the forces of impact to be entirely on the ball of the foot. Therefore, the sole should have better shock absorption qualities than the flat racers shoe.
- Olympic walkers have the end of the heel make ground contact first with the toe high, just as the opposite foot leaves the ground. The time of double support is virtually nonexistent. The heel has almost no downward force when it touches for the first time because the motion is almost completely horizontal. The inner sole should be soft so the surface will shape to the toes. The uppers must be very flexible to adjust to the drop of the longitudinal and transverse arch. The shoe must be fitted firmly about the metatarsals and form-fitted to the heel without putting pressure on the Achilles’ tendon.
In addition, a major change that should be considered for all track shoes was the implementation of a higher heel. It appeared that most manufacturers had reduced the size of the sole and heel in order to reduce the weight. However, weight should not be sacrificed without including appropriate shock absorbing replacement. Weight should be a significant factor with competitive shoes, which are used only for the race itself.
For athletes in training and for the average person who runs for fitness, weight reduction in the shoe should not be necessary. For athletes, the shoe weight should provide shock-absorbing protection. For weekend warriors, the shoe support should be increased to protect the skeletal system, as well as increasing the energy demands. After all, the primary reason that most people give for running for exercise is to burn calories. Therefore, a heavier shoe which requires more calories for the exercise should be a desirable product rather than try to find the lightest shoe possible. This is straightforward biomechanical logic.
Other considerations for running shoes are that the sprinters’ heel should be lower than the heel for distance runners. In addition, the heel should be rounded on the outside-back edge as well as sharply edged and slightly higher on the inside of the heel.
Based on this extensive research, we designed optimal shoes for many different sporting events. Another idea I had would help Pony adapt to the many varieties and styles of the running foot. People vary greatly in height, weight, and shoe size. In fact, we had observed just in the subjects we tested, that it was not unusual to find slight size differences between the left and right foot. How could this accommodation be effected?
My answer was “Air”. This idea stemmed the automotive concept where tires are designed to fit the size and weight of the car or truck. Based on all the research that I had conducted with shoes over many years, it became clearer to me that athletes needed an Air Shoe. A shoe that could adapt to forces and weights in various activities would be an excellent choice for the person wearing the shoe as well as streamlining production for the company. In addition, air could provide the necessary adjustment in sizes and shapes. Air shoes could reduce the numbers of different shoe sizes and, thus, reduce the overhead costs for both manufacturer and retail outlets.
Early in the 1970s, I had first considered the use of air in shoes primarily for shock absorption. I had suggested the idea to Hans Brink, Mr. Vogler, and Adi Dassler of Adidas in one of our initial discussions. Adidas had manufactured a shoe with bubbles with air inside the sole, the Adidas 72, which was the most successful jogging shoe in the world at that time. However, these were token air pockets and not scientifically designed to provide any particular shock absorption. Adidas did not pursue the idea of Air Shoes using my diagnostic procedures primarily because of the cost of the development and expected sales price.
Shortly thereafter, I was the consultant for Tiger Shoes, which was one of the CITC companies, as was Pony. I presented to them the idea for air in the shoes in the same fashion that I had previously presented to Adidas. Tiger was more receptive to the concept which Adidas had abandoned. To test the concept, we made an inflatable air bladder similar to an insole which could be inflated according to the specific need of the athlete. This bladder was designed with valves that allowed air to flow from one area to another. For example, air initially in the heel would support foot strike and then the value would allow the air to move forward and support the ball and toes of the foot for takeoff. This movement of air through one-way valves allowed a dynamic reaction to the athlete’s movement, rather than rigidly determined or fixed air pockets. We made many prototypes according to where the athlete landed on the foot. Some of the athletic events produced greater shock absorption in the heel and others had more in the ball of the foot and near the toes. We tried to optimize the best location for the air based on the athlete’s running event. Then we tested the response of the air bladder within the shoe utilizing the mechanical leg and hydraulic test equipment on the force plate. For different events, we needed to have different structures. Once we perfected the locations for the air and the valves, the bladder would be built into the sole rather than merely an insert. Every shoe would then have an external valve to inflate or deflate as needed by the athlete. This would accommodate the athlete, the event, and size differences. It would also reduce the need for so different sizes that shoe manufactures had to produce and would, also, help every person adjust the shoe for each foot.
My work with Tiger Shoes was well before Nike, as a company, even existed. I was not the only consultant working with Tiger Shoes. Another one of Tiger’s consultants was Bill Bowerman from Oregon. Eventually, he left Tiger and started Nike Shoes. Later, Phil Knight joined Nike and the company has soared.
When the information was first published in the newspapers, many people laughed at the idea. I was frequently asked, “Gideon, does that mean when you buy a jogging shoe you need to buy three, in case you get a flat? Or should I run with a pump to fill up the air?” In fact, Sports Illustrated published the sketch shown on page 150.
However, other publications, such as The Runner, thought it was a good idea.
An independent manufacturer was interested in producing air shoes for me. One of the models is shown on the left.
The shoe had a specialized bladder in the built-in inner sole, which could be inflated and deflated through an external valve at the back of the shoe. The bladder was especially designed to allow air to flow from one air pocket to another pocket via one-way valves. In this manner, the air was moved by the athlete’s impact rather than being located in static, unchanging bubbles. It was a fantastic concept and is still is a great shoe design. However, the manufacturing costs would have exceeded those for a non-air shoe. Over the years, we have never found a shoe manufacturer willing to produce the adjustable Air Shoe. So, the best shoe in the world died, as so many good ideas perish, on the pyre of economic considerations. I continually dream that, in the future, some company will decide to manufacture it.
By this point in time, our notoriety had spread around the world. Our phone rang incessantly with urgent requests from companies imploring us to help in designing their particular shoes. One was the Brown Company located in Boston, Massachusetts, requesting assistance with the design of their nursing shoes. Our friends from Spalding sought our input on designing a non-specialized shoe for the average person. The UniRoyal Company wanted assistance in improving their basketball shoes and Dr. Scholl searched for studies to improve their sole inserts.
We were working on one of the shoe projects, when one evening I received a telephone call at home late at night. The voice on the phone identified himself but it was not one that I recognized. He asked many questions about Biomechanical analysis and, based on the questions, I was sure it was one of my students. I assured him that all of the questions would become clear as the semester progressed provided he attended every class. Ann was walking around the kitchen listening to my side of the conversation. As I looked more and more confused by the conversation, I decided to ask, exactly, with whom I was talking. I repeated his name out loud for Ann to hear, “George Allen of the Redskins”. Ann’s eyes widened with surprise and she indicated that he was the head football coach. In my own defense, I was familiar with soccer, not American football. Furthermore, I was clueless regarding professional teams, players, or coaches. I responded with, “Are you some kind of coach?” The response nearly floored Ann, a devoted fan, but seemed not to deter Coach Allen. He replied that he was indeed the head coach and he invited me to visit his training facility in the outskirts of Washington, D.C.
We arranged a time and Ann and I flew to the meeting. The next day, one of the assistants drove us from our hotel to the meeting. We had a lengthy discussion with Coach Allen and he was particularly keen to analyze his place kickers. We agreed on a project and left to return to Amherst. It was a short project which we quickly completely and sent the results to the team. A copy of the letter with Coach Allen’s likeness at the top is reprinted here:
Thank you for your recent letter sent to Bill Hickman. Enclosed is a check for your expenses submitted for your visit to Redskin Park.
Keep me informed if you have any other suggestions. We can take the time to go into a lot of facets of your program -- I am more interested in the things that I mentioned to you.
With best regards,
George H. Allen, Head Coach and General Manager
In addition to all of our shoe studies, CBA also attracted many other types of projects. One day, we received a phone call from a visual specialist who asked about our thoughts on baseball skills. It transpired that he was working on the pitching and batting skills of the Kansas City Royals. He believed that a baseball batter had to continually switch from side vision to forward sightings prior to the ball being pitched. How successful the batter was in mastering this alternating vision and being able to track the ball after the pitcher threw it, determined the success, or lack thereof, of his hit. The specialist had a battery of tests which all of the players took and practiced in an effort to improve their hitting skills. We designed a research project to examine the coordination between the pitcher and the batter.
In this study, we focused our attention primarily on comparing Steve Busby and Doug Bird, who were pitchers for the Kansas City Royals. The goal was to examine the patterns of motion in throwing a fastball and a curve ball and to evaluate the batter’s response to each of these two pitches. The KC Royals arranged for us to film a game against the New York Yankees in NYC on July 14, 1973. We had to design a unique filming system using mirrors on each camera so that every pitch showed the pitcher and the batter, simultaneously, in the same frame of the 16 mm film. By using the mirror system, we could coordinate the movement of the pitcher, exactly, with those of the batter.
As mentioned previously, this was in the days before instant digital video recordings. We filmed the two pitchers during the game and then took the film back to Amherst for processing. I must confess that I have no idea who won the game that day since my main focus was on acquiring good, clean, useful film data. In the days that followed, we performed our biomechanical analysis on the two pitchers. In addition, we processed data on the batters to detect any information on how they watched the pitcher and attempted to track the pitched ball.
Our results revealed that Busby demonstrated an extremely good pattern of using his body segments efficiently. His front shank and thigh decelerated abruptly just prior to the release of the ball contributing to the speed of the hand and ball. Busby used his knee extensors throughout the throw, as well as using his front leg to good effect. However, he tended to lose his thrust, just before the release, when delivering his fastball.
The biomechanical results for Doug Bird indicated that, although he was also efficient, he did not use his body’s link system as well as Busby did. He produced the same deceleration pattern as Busby, but with less magnitude. Bird’s deceleration was not as abrupt at release and this resulted in a less efficient pattern. In addition, Bird failed to fully use his knee extensors.
We concluded that the magnitude of the elbow extension differences indicated that Busby was the stronger man. Bird needed to improve the strength in his upper body segments which would allow him to increase the velocity of his throwing hand. Busby’s throwing sequence was almost perfect. He used his front leg to the maximum potential possible. He was 25% stronger than Bird, in the force of the direction of his throw. Bird needed to strengthen his body to achieve a stronger throw.
In addition, we determined that the throwing motion for both pitchers relied on the strength and timing of their lower body segments. With strong leg and trunk segments, the pitcher could plant the front throwing leg which would abruptly stop the forward motion. The forces would transfer through the arm and allow the ball to gain additional speed. Much like a car hitting a wall, which throws an unrestrained driver through the windshield, stopping the leg and trunk abruptly allows the forces to transfer through to the ball.
Now both the players and their coaches understood more about them as players and about the intricacies of pitching. In addition, the vision specialist had more information to help the batters, as well. As with most of our CBA projects, much more information was gleaned than anyone imagined before the studies began.
It was at this time, that my father, Moshe, decided to travel to America to visit me. His plane was scheduled to arrive in JFK one afternoon in the spring of 1975. I was extremely nervous about his visit since my emotions were at war with positive as well as negative thoughts. On one hand, I anticipated the pride I had to show him my many accomplishments in academia as well as in my business and personal life. Despite these many accomplishments, I was unable to shed the shadows of my childhood experiences of his denigration and disapproval of nearly everything I had ever wanted or accomplished. However, Ann and I prepared for his visit as best we could.
We drove to New York in my VW camper. I paced the terminal floor anxiously while I twisted and turned to stare at the door as each new arriving passenger emerged. After a very long time, my father finally appeared looking weary and haggard after his long flight. Many hours later, Ann confessed that she had been surprised to see me approach the tiny man who had struggled out of the customs area with his huge suitcase. Her assumption was that I was inquiring about how many other people were still in the line behind the customs door. She could not imagine that the large, muscular man that she knew me to be could be related to the small fragile man with the enormous suitcase.
I introduced my father to Ann and realize that each of them had unreadable expressions. I picked up my father’s suitcase and off we went. It was a four-hour drive to Amherst which must have seemed even longer after his fourteen-hour flight. My poor father must have been completely exhausted by this point. A few days later, I learned that he had packed his suitcase a month before he began his trip and arrived at the Tel Aviv airport 6 hours before the departure time. This was typical of his personality to prepare meticulously, as well as allowing unfamiliar circumstances to overwhelm his logical sense of things.
We finally arrive at Poole Road. As we were winding our way through the budding green of the tree leaves and passed the few patches of brown more pronounced than the small patches of melted snow, my father asked with a very small voice, “Where is your tree house?”
I was confused by this question so I replied, “What tree house?”
His explanation was that since I lived on Poole Road that meant that I lived in the water so my house would have to be up in a tree to keep my household dry. I was speechless! We turned into my driveway and ahead was the cute, little red house set on the edge of the tiny hill overlooking the lake. Although my father never mentioned this again, I have no doubt that he was extremely relieved to learn that he would not have to climb a ladder into my home.
As his visit progressed, my father relaxed and enjoyed the natural quiet and beauty of my lakeside house. He was a quiet man with complex thoughts and emotions. He possessed amazing artistic talents which had never been realized. No one had ever encouraged him to peruse his artistic abilities and his workdays had consumed all of his time. It was during this visit that I realized how little we actually knew about each other. My father did not really understand the work we were doing at CBA. He attended the classes which I taught at the University, looked at the articles written by and about me, and studied the framed Ph.D. diploma on the wall. It was impossible to determine whether he was shocked, surprised, frightened, or proud, since he watched everything and said nothing. Sadly, for us, our past was greater than our future.
One interesting project was activated during my father’s visit. The United States Department of Commerce oversees the National Bureau of Standards. The previous year, the National Bureau of Standards had approached us regarding some specific questions about our testing procedures and the types of results that we could produce.
After these extensive conversations with the professional staff, I was invited to Washington, D.C. I was asked to present the type of research that we conducted which was a truly unique application for the products for which they needed to establish regulatory standards. For this initial presentation, I was asked to present the methods we used to measure human performance in sports, industry, and normal life activities. In addition, I should show some examples of research we had conducted and some of the apparatus that we used to analyzed products or performances. After that presentation, we could focus on the scope of the research they wanted us to conduct for them.
Ann and I recognized that it would be a fantastic opportunity for my father to accompany us to Washington. He would have a chance to see one of my presentations and we could treat him to some of the special tourist sites that are available there. As usual, he was slightly apprehensive about the new twist in his life but he agreed to go with us.
After the relatively short flight from Hartford, Connecticut, we arrived in the Capitol of America, Washington, D.C. We stayed at the Hyatt which was a luxurious hotel close to the center of the city. It was also conveniently located near the location of the lecture on the following morning. After dinner, we rode the elevator upstairs to our rooms. I had a room with Ann and my father had his own room adjacent to us. The following morning, I knocked on the door of my father’s room. Nothing happened, so I turned the doorknob and discovered that the door was not locked. When I opened the door, I saw my father seated on one of the beds dressed as he had been the night before.
I asked him, “Father, how did you sleep?”
“I did not sleep,” he answered.
“What? Why not?”
“Well he did not show up,” he replied to me.
“Who did not show up?” I asked.
“The other man,” was his reply.
“What other person, what are you talking about?” I asked with mounting confusion and consternation.
My father pointed to the bed which was beside the one on which he was perched. As was common in hotels, his room was appointed with two twin beds. Since my father had neither experience nor a rational explanation for a second bed in a room for only one person, it was beyond his wildest imagination that he would be in a room alone with the second bed available yet unoccupied. With no perspective of travel in a modern world, he could not imagine that the second bed would be unused. No hotel would be so foolish to waste a bed. My poor father; despite being 75 years old and moving to Israel as a young man, still lived in the Poland he had left in the 1920s. He had never been in a luxurious hotel nor experienced a room with two beds just for him. Unfortunately, we still had to continue with our scheduled presentation at the National Bureau of Standards despite my father’s lack of sleep. Despite his fatigue, my father appeared very attentive to my presentation and the subsequent question and answer period which followed. It was surely an interesting day that allowed him to see his son working and exchanging ideas with scientists and government officials.
Not surprisingly, my father was quite tired by the end of that day. That night, however, he slept extremely well in his newly discovered luxury of two beds in one room with both of them for him. The next morning when I knocked on his hotel room door, it was locked. When he opened the door, I saw that he had used the second bed for his clothes and his suitcase.
We spent the day at the Smithsonian Museum. His favorite section was the “Air and Space Museum”. When he was presented with the opportunity to touch the space shuttle and the capsule, which had landed on the moon, he was speechless. He expressed no desire to see the antiquities or historical sections since he was only interested in the newest scientific displays. In spite of his lack of experience in travel, he was very progressive in his modern and technological interests. He expressed interest only in things of and about the future and disdain for antiquities and things from the past.
Years later I visited my father in Israel in his apartment. After the visit, I was walking down the street and encountered one of his neighbors. We chatted about my life in America and then the neighbor told me about my father’s impressions of his visit with me. After he had returned to Israel, he described my house, the beautiful New England countryside, and his trip to Washington, D.C. His biggest surprise was associated with the National Bureau of Standards. “You would not believe it, but my Gideon talked to the U.S. Government. This is okay. But what I could not believe was that they listened to him!”
After the presentation to the gathering of experts at the National Bureau of Standards, we discussed some specific needs that they wanted to address. These discussions resulted in some of our more unusually unique biomechanical studies. One research project was to analyze and redesign paper matches. Paper matches are enclosed in a “matchbook” or ““matchbook cover” which is is a thin cardboard covering that folds over match sticks in a “book” or “pack” of matches.
The matchbook covers have been used as a form of advertising since 1894, two years after they were patented. Since then, matchbook covers have attracted people who enjoy the hobby of collecting. Many historians point to the Mendelson Opera as the first to use matchbooks for advertising purposes. They hand wrote their promotional information on blank matchbook covers made by the Binghamton Match Company between 1893 and 1894. Inspired by the Opera’s innovation, Diamond Match salesman Henry Traute began approaching manufacturers to advertise their products on his company’s matches. His sales pitch was that companies could use them to promote their product. Since matches were used frequently during the day, the company’s product would be viewed by their users many times a day. Among the first companies to order advertising matchbooks were Pabst beer, American Tobacco Company and Wrigley’s Chewing Gum. Mr. Traute also encouraged his customers to give away matchbooks as a promotional item.
When the National Bureau of Standards approached us for assistance, the design for paper matches continued to be a folded cover with the matches arranged in rows inside above an abrasive strip. There were advertisements on the outside and back covers for everything from hotels, to restaurants, and various products. The cover of the matchbook flipped up to reveal the matches arranged horizontally across the bottom, almost like flowers in a garden, just above a corrugated striking surface.
Matches were developed with one end coated with a material that can be ignited by frictional heat generated by striking the match against a suitable surface. To use a match required merely tearing one of the matches from the row, closing the cover, and striking the head of the match against the strip to ignite it.
The impetus for their attention was the frequent episodes of fires which resulted from repeated efforts to ignite a match. When there were fewer than five matches remaining in the package, the striking surface had usually been worn smooth. Thus, rather than providing a sufficiently rough striking surface, the head of the match slid across the surface without igniting into flame. In addition to the increasing smoothness of the striking surface, the paper match itself began to deteriorate with the repeated efforts to ignite it. Therefore, as the match became weaker and more flexible, people would grip it closer to the head of the match and continued striking it across the less-than rough surface. By the time that the match finally ignited, the fingers were gripping the match too close to the flame, the fire would burn the fingers, the match would be dropped, and fires ensued.
Subsequently, after we completed our biomechanical research on match striking, we suggested two main solutions. One solution to this problem was to add a stronger material to the matches so they were more resistant to bending during the striking action. The second recommendation was to increase the amount and/or roughness in the striking area. These changes would reduce the weakening of the match during the striking process and, hopefully, reduce the chance of burning the fingers or causing a fire.
The National Bureau of Standards had a second project which had initially seemed strange and unusual, but we soon learned that it was a practical and safety-related assignment. The study was to evaluate the current shape of ketchup bottles and determine if their proportions could be biomechanically altered to produce a safer container.
Once again, the impetus for the study was the surprisingly large numbers of injuries resulting from ketchup bottles slipping out of the hand while attempting to shake out the ketchup. The situation rarely occurred when a new bottle was opened because both the bottle and contents were at room temperature and the ketchup flowed quite easily in this condition. However, when someone took a glass bottle of ketchup from the refrigerator, there was usually a different result.
Usually, a ketchup bottle is taken from the cold climate of the refrigerator and placed on the table or countertop where normal thermodynamic reactions occurred. The warm air and the cold bottled contents produce condensation on the outside of the bottle. Two other factors influencing the situation are the density of the cold ketchup and the size of the mouth of the bottle. Thus, it is a confluence of factors which prevent the contents from easily exiting the bottle. Since the cold ketchup is less fluid, it resists pouring. It is almost an automatic reaction to attempt to shake the contents out with short, violent shakes or hit the bottom of the bottle with the palm of the other hand. Unfortunately, in normal conditions, the bottle will have become slippery with the condensed moisture, so that the shaking motion frequently resulted in the bottle flying from the hand much like a spear. The Bureau had a surprisingly large number of injuries resulting from parents unintentionally losing control of the bottle and launching it at their children.
Following our analysis of ketchup bottles, we presented our results and some suggested remedies. Why not change the shape of the bottle or use one made of plastic? However, one of our subsequent studies revealed that, regardless of the brand used, people insisted that ketchup always tasted better from a glass bottle rather than from one of plastic. This was a factor that each ketchup manufacturer would have to address.
Another of our recommendations was that manufacturers design the mouth of the bottle to be slightly wider so that the ketchup could flow out more freely thus alleviating the need of aggressive shaking. It is a rewarding comfort that many of the modern ketchup bottles are made from squeezable plastic materials.
The third project with the National Bureau of Standards involved the slippery conditions on kitchen and restaurant floors. Normally, kitchen floors are smooth and easy to clean with soap and water. However, spilled food and beverages which are found in kitchen preparation areas lead to slippery walking conditions. Workers, carrying trays laden with dishes full of food or stacked with dirty plates and utensils, frequently executed quick turns or merely step on a slippery area which results in falls. On the other hand, the restaurant’s dining areas are often covered with rugs. Thus, the shoes of food service personnel needed to have good slip resistant soles for walking in the kitchen and smoother bottoms for moving about the dining area.
This was a project that was easily accomplished with our video technique of filming the activities in actual settings as well as using our hydraulic force platform testing equipment on the shoe sole materials. We presented our results to the Bureau and they were able to determine standards for restaurant working environments. In additions to recommendations for shoes, we suggested that in the slippery areas in the kitchens, it might be appropriate for grooved mats to be used. These mats should be less slippery when wet, yet be washable to keep the area clean and sanitary.
While we were working on the various National Bureau of Standards projects, I received a call asking me if my company could analyze bodily contours. It transpired that the woman was calling from Kimberly Clark in Nina, Wisconsin. I told her that we could measure any surface with dimensionality, regardless of whether it was a human or an object.
“Can you measure the contour of a nose on the face?” the woman inquired.
“We can try,” I answered, a bit perplexed by the question.
We arranged a convenient time for her to visit our laboratory in Amherst. The woman was Dr. Elaine Jeveli, and, coincidentally, she had lived in the small city next to Amherst, Northampton, for many years before moving to Wisconsin. We chatted briefly about our shared local experiences regarding restaurants and traffic patterns and then got down to the purpose of her visit.
We were surprised to learn that the information that she needed was not for the face. It transpired that her task was to improve the fit and function of feminine hygiene products. Because the female body has irregular rather than smooth continuous shapes and dimensions, as well as undergoing dynamic changes during normal movements, feminine hygiene products were frequently less efficient than desired. Her goal was to ascertain whether the differing shapes of the female and their movements changed the products in consistent ways. If they could design the product to fit better and perform more effectively, then the company and its clients would be more satisfied. This was certainly a new and different kind of challenge for our company. The letter to Dr. Jeveli follows
There were separate considerations for providing answers to the questions posed. One portion was to measure the product itself from three orthogonal dimensions. The second issue was to determine how the product was altered or deformed under specific movement sequences by the woman wearing them.
Initially, we had to devise a method to quantify three-dimensionality. This had never been done, so we were faced with a truly unique challenge. Fortunately, we had some extremely talented physicists and engineers who were able to design a static test apparatus to quantify the three dimensional aspects of each pad. They designed a special calibration frame, with the pad placed in the center, which allowed the calculation of all angles from each orthogonal coordinate. A photo of the apparatus and one sample is shown above.
Following the quantification of the three-dimensional contours of each of the products to be evaluated, we proceeded with the tests to determine functional deformation. Specific tasks were devised that could be performed by each woman and could be consistently duplicated between and among the test subjects. The tests included sitting on a firm chair, sitting down and getting up from this chair, walking, and climbing stairs. Following each of the tasks, we photographed the product to determine the deformation. Following the tests for each of the individual tasks, we combined all of the movement tests before evaluating the products again. We found that the process of sitting down and standing up created the most pronounced changes in the shape. With deformations to the shape, functional effectiveness was reduced. These results were communicated to Dr. Jeveli and she was more than satisfied with our findings.
Following our tests, we were invited to Nina, Wisconsin to present our biomechanical methods. After the main presentation, we were asked to comment on their on-going baby diaper evaluations. Their procedure was to have women from the surrounding area come to their test facility to evaluate the behavior of their infants. Each child was diapered with cloth diapers as well as with various company products. For each individual diaper product, the mother was asked whether her child looked comfortable.
Our suggestion was for them to evaluate the baby’s movements in more scientific and quantifiable ways. They should film the babies walking with no diapers, as a baseline, and then film them as they walked with each of the different diaper choices available. They could block the identify of each child to properly protect the children’s privacy and then perform biomechanical analyses for walking naked and for each of the diaper options. Following this testing protocol, they would be able to quantify actual human movements rather than base their decisions on observation or subjective opinions. Our understanding is that they proceeded to devise more objective testing methods based on our recommendations.
Our research projects brought us income, in addition to, credibility and some excellent publicity. By 1975, CBA Inc. was financially able to purchase almost any technology wanted or needed to improve our methods of analysis. We were frugal in managing our business and never allowed expenditures to exceed income. With careful shepherding of our funds, we were able to purchase new digitizers which were more sophisticated than the first digitizer which I had invented. We purchased additional force plates, EMG equipment, and faster computer terminals with storage capabilities. It will surprise current readers that, at that time, a 5MB storage disk was a huge circular container approximately 2 feet in diameter, nearly 2 inches in thickness, and cost about $10,000.00 each. The memory bank to power and hold these disks was more than 8 feet tall and dwarfed the computer and the graphic terminal. The Analog to Digital (A/D) converter board for the Data General computer was 15 inches square and cost around $25,000. In today’s digital world, the same A/D board is approximately 3 inches by 2 inches and would fit on the screen of a digital phone.
One of our most amazing purchases was the Megatek Equipment Graphic System. This system allowed us to present our three-dimensional data on a display screen with exquisite and elegant movements. At that time, a three-dimensional presentation was possible only with hard-wired, elaborately constructed computer driven boards. With this system, however, our stick figures could be animated, turned to view from any perspective, and presented in a variety of different modes at a rate that was nearly real time. This Megatek System was extremely expensive, priced about $150,000, but it set our company apart and provided a uniquely attractive tool for our increasing number of television interviews. With all of this equipment, CBA was the most advanced biomechanical company in the world. Actually, we were the only biomechanical company in the world.
We were fortunate that we had enough corporate contracts to run our business and acquire new equipment as we grew. Although there were some universities with biomechanical programs, they usually had minimal equipment, most of their tools were older, and most departments were poorly funded. Because we were a corporation, we operated on our own funds generated by the work that we performed without concern for state-funded budgetary problems.
In 1976, I received a call from our old Spalding friend, Egon Rahmacher, congratulating me on our new equipment. He wanted to meet so we set a time and showed him our new equipment and demonstrated some of their applications. During our discussion, he told me he wanted to conduct a major project analyzing tennis balls. There were so many questions about what actually happens to a tennis ball when it impacts the racket and when it hits the ground. For example, how long does the tennis ball remain in contact with the racket and how long does it stay on the ground? How much velocity is lost between the impact with one racket and when it hits the opposing racket? What is the coefficient of friction with the ground and with a variety of different surface materials? How does the Spalding ball compare with its competition? These were just a few of the many questions that arose during our conversation.
We agreed upon a number of questions that Egon wanted to investigate. Because of the scope of the project, we told him that we would design some research protocols and discuss them with him next week. My staff and I discussed the most important factors to be studied, equipment that would be involved, and outlined the tests to be performed. Egon agreed with all of our suggestions and told us to proceed.
The first thing we needed was a special ball-throwing device that would allow us to control the speed, direction, and spin of the ball. Then we had to design the laboratory setting that allowed us to record the flight of the ball and its force responses on the force platform. We could control the actions of the ball with this sophisticated ball-throwing machine. By changing the surfaces mounted on the force plate, we could examine the ball’s behavior when different materials were hit. Based on our initial results, Spalding could, then, design a new tennis ball taking into account the data that we acquired. The final test phase would be to investigate whether the newly designed Spalding tennis balls had favorable characteristics compared with other brands of tennis balls.
The first evaluation began with a dynamic test to measure impact conditions on the ball, racket, and various tennis court surface materials. We used a specially designed and controlled ball-throwing device to shoot a tennis ball at a tennis racket that had been fixed in a special mount on the force plate. The speed, spin, and direction were programmed to duplicate those of actual tennis performance which we had calculated from actual games. We had studied both professionals and amateur players so we were able to apply appropriate values to obtain realistic results during our current ball and racket tests.
The racket response and ball impact were filmed with a specialized camera that filmed at a rate of 10,000 frames per second. The camera was so rare and expensive to operate that we actually hired the owner of the camera firm and one of their trained technicians to operate the camera for us. Each ball test shot utilized an entire roll of film and took only three seconds to shoot. Because of the uniqueness of the camera and the difficulty in operation, we would have used our entire filming budget just learning how to operate the camera. It seemed like a small price to pay to rent the camera and the operator for a few hours of work. We were able to record the impact of the ball and detect the deformation of the ball and of the racket following each hit.
Our tests revealed that when a tennis ball strikes a smooth surface, it deforms significantly. The body of the ball spreads out while the top and bottom are flattened. Then the ball’s body continues to move in the direction that it had been traveling prior to impact. Whether the ball remains in one position on the surface or slides forward depended on the surface material. The higher the coefficient of friction, the less the ball slides; the lower the coefficient of friction, the more it slides.
In other words, on a stiff or rough tennis court material, the ball would hit and rebound with little horizontal movement. But on a smoother surface or when it hits a line, the ball would hit, slide, and then rebound. In a situation when the ball hits a line and slides, two observers could have totally different reactions. In one case, the ball would be called in or good, while the other person might see the ball as being out. Actually, they would both be correct. People do not actually see the ball hit the ground. They watch the ball as it moves through the air and the trajectory that the ball follows is what is detected visually. Thus, the incoming angle could indicate that the ball landed inside or possibly on the line. But after the ball deforms and slides along the ground, the out-going angle would reveal that the ball was outside the line and be called out. It is quite difficult to see where the ball first impacts the court and where it leaves. This situation has produced many heated discussions between players and umpires. The more modern system with instant replay and challenge systems have helped to resolve this situation.
We also measured the velocity of approach, the rebound angle, the rebound velocity, and the coefficient of restitution, which is the ration of the velocity of approach to the velocity of the rebound. We studied kinetic measurements of the forces, moments, holding time, momentum, and friction. All of these factors would affect the player’s ability to hit and return the ball and, frequently, determine the individual’s personal enjoyment or frustration with the game.
Our research revealed that faster, or livelier, tennis balls are not necessarily a desirable factor for the tennis game. Test results indicated that a tennis ball with a longer residence time on the tennis racquet was easier to control. At the same time, a longer flight time after rebounding from the surface enabled the player more time to react to the shot. The experimental results combined with antidotal comments by the players we interviewed indicated that most players enjoyed playing tennis when there were more hitting rallies rather than quick service games without forehand or backhand interplay. Using these results, Spalding designed a new ball with different internal pressure.
Based on our studies, Spalding designed a new tennis ball with specific characteristics. The hardness of the tennis ball was an important component of its behavior, particularly, since playing surfaces significantly affected the behavioral characteristics of the tennis balls. They also created the ball with more density in the core and the felt outer core covering which reduced the internal ball pressure. The interactions of materials enabled the ball to retain its playability and eliminated the need to ship or store the balls under pressure. This greatly reduced the cost of manufacturing. Spalding named their new ball “Australian” and it was very successful. We were quite pleased as well when Spalding rewarded us with a royalty of one cent on each ball that sold.
We could conduct all of these projects with a staff of five and enlisted university students to help us process some of the routine data processing when necessary. It allowed the company to function very efficiently. We could use our highly-educated staff to design and interpret the data while relying on students for much of the most mundane work. The students worked hard but were happy to receive the lucrative financial reward that we provided.
That year, I had a joint appointment in the Exercise Science Department and the Computer Science Department which gave me access to amazing levels of intellectual and academic power. If I needed any help in the area of engineering or computer software development, I could easily find it. There were other advantages, as well.
One advantage of my joint appointment was that I could take both undergraduate and graduate courses in any area that intrigued me or seemed necessary to improve my background for biomechanical work. I decided that I needed to take all the basic engineering courses including Statics, Dynamics, Strength of Material, and Hydraulics. I also considered it important to take the undergraduate pre-requisites in Physics before I proceeded with the graduate classes.
One of the pre-requisite math classes was Numerical Analysis and was taught by Dr. Albert Storey. My experience with math classes was that they were taught by quite, calm, staid professors writing lengthy mathematical proofs on the blackboard. Normally, I was able to copy the equations from the blackboard and study them at home. However, all of my math class experiences flew out of the window in Dr. Storey’s class. Albert Storey was young, dynamic, and very enthusiastic about his subject. He was my first professor who seemed to bounce rather than walk. He jumped and hopped up and down as he moved around the room all the while continuing to elaborate on the day’s mathematical concepts. He even jumped up onto the desk and held some of these imaginary sets of numbers in the palms of his hands and waved them in the air. I believed that, to Dr. Storey, these imaginary sets were actually real. I do not mean to imply that I thought he was crazy but he was so immersed in his subject that these sets were as realistic as he could make them, in order for the students to comprehend the mathematical idea he was presenting. However, his most difficult tactic for me was that while he wrote equations with his right hand while he erased the board with his left hand. This forced me to learn how to write very quickly! Dr. Storey was the most animated person I have ever seen teaching any subject matter but to be so enthusiastic about mathematics was truly unique. If all teachers were as excited about their subjects as Dr. Storey was, more students would be enchanted and captivated about learning.
Dr. Storey gave mandatory quizzes every Friday. If you missed the test, you automatically received an “F” without exception. After a Wednesday class during the fall semester, I informed Dr. Storey that I would be out of town on Friday at a conference and would miss the quiz. I inquired whether there was any way that I could take the test early or the following Monday. He was unsympathetic and presumably did not believe my explanation regarding my absence.
“Bring me a copy of your talk and the details about the convention. I’ll look through the material and see if there is an acceptable justification for your absence,” he told me skeptically as he walked off in the direction of his office.
I hurried to our CBA office to prepare the papers. I printed the research papers that I was to present and all of the details about the convention. Included was the program listing and I circled my name in the two sessions where I was presenting. I also included the thesis for both my master’s and doctorate and 15 of the articles that I had published as of that time. I put all of this material in a large envelope and delivered it to the mathematics department office for Dr. Storey. Then I left for the conference.
The following Monday I went to the Numerical Analysis class, as usual. When Dr. Storey entered the classroom he shouted “DR. ARIEL!” several times, very loudly. I sat wide-eyed and silent not knowing what to do. “DR. ARIEL, why didn’t you tell me who you are and what you have accomplished? You do not have to come to class and you do not have to take any of the quizzes. I am honored that you attend my class,” he continued.
I was amazed by this response and I must have blushed a bright red with his outburst. I assured him that I wanted to take the class to learn the information and that the quiz was a good way to determine whether or not I actually understood the concepts. He proceeded with his lesson but, after the class, he apologized for what he thought was an insult and I assured him that I was not offended in any way. Plus, I told him that I enjoyed his class very much and was learning quite a lot from him.
Another undergraduate class I registered to take was in engineering and was taught by Dr. Paul Tartaglia. Professor Tartaglia assigned the class five homework problems at the end of the first class. Instead of using a slide rule, paper, and pencil, I decided to solve each problem by writing a computer program to do the necessary mathematical steps and used a simple BASIC language for the code. My idea was that if I was able to determine how to solve the engineering problems using the step-by-step logic that computer programs require then I could be assured that I understood the problem as well as the underlying Physics Principles. My goal for taking the class was not to obtain an undergraduate degree in engineering. My goal was to understand the Engineering and Physics. I submitted the assignment printed on the yellow paper which all computer terminals used at that time.
At the beginning of the next class, Professor Tartaglia called me up to the lectern.
“This is cheating,” he informed me holding up the yellow pages. “I assigned the problems for you to solve at home using your engineering book and slide rule. I expected you to write all of the mathematical equations which you used to arrive at the final answer. Using the computer to solve the problems was not an option. You will have to either do five new problems or receive an ‘F’.”
Needless to say, I was shocked at this response. I explained to him what I had actually done to produce the pages of answers that he held in his hand. I explained that to write the program for each problem was much more time consuming than merely solving the individual problem. For me, understanding the problem and the subsequent answer was much more important to me than to just follow some rules of computation. I stressed that I was interested in building a foundation of engineering and physics knowledge. This was the reason I was taking his class and why I had spent so much time on programing the assigned problems. I invited him to visit my CBA lab to see what we were doing for projects and what type of equipment we had.
Dr. Tartaglia learned, as Professor Story had found before, that I already had my Ph.D. Paul became quite friendly from that point forward. He was always willing to explain things that I asked. In fact, when I needed to construct the Cam for the Universal Gym Company, I hired Paul to do the calculations. After those projects, we hired him as our in-house engineer while he continued to teach at the University. Unfortunately, after about two years, he was offered a job at another university. It was one of those wonderful opportunities that only come along once in a lifetime so we reluctantly saw him leave although we were happy for his good fortune.
My life had become very full. In addition to our numerous CBA projects and the extra classes which I was taking, there was also my involvement with my joint appointment with the department of Computer Science. My focus in Computer Science was Cybernetics which is the interdisciplinary study of the structure of neurological regulatory systems. Cybernetics is closely related to Information Theory, Control Theory, and Systems Theory. Cybernetics is most applicable when the system being analyzed is involved in a closed-signal loop. In other words, action in the system causes some change in its environment and that change is fed to the system via information (feedback) that causes the system to adapt to these new conditions. Thus, the system’s changes affect its behavior. This circular causal relationship is necessary and sufficient from a cybernetic perspective. I had learned about this area by taking classes from the head of the department, Dr. Michael Arbib. Dr. Arbib was a world-renowned expert in Neuroscience with a particular interest in the architecture of the brain.
I had taken nearly all of the courses in the Computer Science Department that were available to me and I was fortunate to have had Dr. Arbib teach several of them. Thus, he and I had enjoyed the luxury of spending many hours discussing the interrelation between the nervous and the musculoskeletal systems and how they should coordinate to produce movement. Dr. Arbib’s interest was how the brain structure and functions interacted to produce movement. My focus was on the resulting motions of this neurological structure and function. We concluded that it would be of scientific benefit for both of us to combine our strengths to investigate some activities that each of us could monitor or regulate from our own unique perspective.
The Department of Computer Science, under the innovative leadership of its Chairmanship, Dr. Arbib, received a number of grants leading to some amazing research studies. Even after all these years, I am honored and proud that our assistance at CBA significantly contributed to these studies. CBA provided of our equipment and expertise without compensation. My staff and colleagues at CBA were interested in the research and were more than willing to contribute time and effort merely for the good of science and as contributions to knowledge. Another aspect that has changed is that current day researchers are confronted with the monetary demands of test subjects. Having to pay test subjects was completely unknown during the 1970s since there was an altruistic environment on most college and university campuses.
I felt a personal obligation and responsibility to Dr. Arbib as an Assistant Professor in his department. I was able to use some of the research working towards a post-doctoral degree in Computer Science and I was considered as a Post-Doctoral student in the department in addition to my professorship. Dr. Arbib hired me in his department in coordination with the Exercise Science Department. The goal was to conduct research that would expand and diversify what each of us could do on our own. This more extensive perspective on the understanding motion would enable him to obtain larger research grants. One of these grants was for $700,000 to the University of Massachusetts was from the National Institute of Health (NIH).
The NIH research proposal was designed to study the logic of movement with a focus on the nerves in the cerebellum. The cerebellum (Latin for little brain) is a region of the brain that plays an important role in motor control. It may, also, be involved in some cognitive functions such as attention and language and in regulating fear and pleasure responses. However, its movement-related functions are the most solidly established. The cerebellum does not initiate movement but it contributes to coordination, precision, and accurate timing. It receives input from sensory systems and from other parts of the brain and spinal cord and integrates these inputs to fine-tune motor activity. Because of this fine-tuning function, damage to the cerebellum does not cause paralysis but, instead, produces disorders in fine movement, equilibrium, posture, and motor learning.
The funding requested from the National Institute of Health was to provide a two-front approach to studying the cerebellum. One aspect was to create a computer graphics simulation of the spinal circuitry with both reflex movements and limb locomotion. The second portion of the study was to provide experimental data on the biomechanics of movement using the computer analysis of cinematographic records which I and my CBA laboratory could provide. At that time, our CBA laboratory was the only one in the world that could film movements and provide the orthogonal components of the displacement of the limbs as well as the velocity and acceleration of those parts. In order to more accurately arrive at a computer simulation of the brain’s activity based on movements, the internal controls could best be estimated if specifically measured data could be provided. That was the unique contribution that I was able to provide to Dr. Arbib and his Cybernetics department and colleagues.
Two professors at the Department of Computer Science were Dr. Spinali and Dr. Kilmar whose classes Ann and I had taken. Each of these professors was investigating a different aspect of neurological controls. Their investigations would provide some direction for the research studies to follow.
One of Dr. Spinali’s research studies involved three groups of cats. One group was blindfolded from the day they were born. A second group had one of their eyes covered with a vertical slit and the other eye was covered with a horizontal slit. Thus, the second group had some limited vision, but it was restricted to only the horizontal or vertical slits. The third group of cats was the control group which was allowed to experience normal vision.
Dr. Spinali let the kittens grow for a few months, fed them appropriately, and provided exercise on a mechanical treadmill. Then the young cats, unfortunately, were sacrificed in order to examine their visual cortex cells under the microscope. The researchers found that the visual cortex cells reflected the life-conditions they had experienced. The visual cortex cells revealed actual physical development in the vertical and horizontal arrangements consistent with their visual restrictions. Dr. Spinali concluded that our experiences really could create physical templates in our brain.
However, my most unusual, or perhaps unruly, research study was about to begin. The research was to analyze the coordinated limbs patterns in walking and running cats. Why does a cat move faster in a fast walk as compared to a slow run? What causes a cat to change the gait from slow to fast or vice versa? The research goal was to measure and evaluate the movement patterns associated with cat locomotion and try to determine the programming or neural architectural control for these animals. Perhaps brain patterns or understanding the neural controls of movements in feline locomotion could provide insight for a human.
I was teamed with a brilliant mathematical doctoral student, Ruth Malucci. She was working with Dr. Arbib as his doctoral student and research assistant. Her expertise was solving simultaneous mathematical equations. The goal of our NIH-sponsored cat study was to determine which movement parameter(s) a cat used in determining its gait. This required narrowing the number of elective choices the cat had and, thus, required solving the vast numbers of options in the mathematical equations of motions generated by the cat’s movements.
The first hurdle Ruth and I encountered was to convince our cat to run on the treadmill. I named the cat “Putzi” but responding to her name was one of her few cooperative activities. She, mostly, was inclined to hide under the treadmill rather than to run on it. Actually, the treadmill was an antique Ruth and I found in one of the lab storage equipment rooms and it sounded more like a garbage truck or a cement mixer than a treadmill. When the motor was activated to run the treadmill, the sound was so loud that the windows vibrated. Imagine the trauma poor little Putzi experienced and envision the confusion she must have had. We were in a quandary concerning what and how we were going to obtain gait data from a traumatized cat. We had arrived at a difficult and challenging point with no clear solution. Without a solution, we would have to stop the study before it even began.
I decided to introduce Ruth to Ann. Perhaps they, the two cat lovers, could find a solution to the problem. Ruth and Ann became close friends very quickly and Putzi and I were mere putty in their hands. Our collective decision was to try an entirely different technique to elicit movement patterns from the cat. We took Putzi to our CBA laboratory, turned her loose so she could explore the premises, and waited for her to relax. After she was comfortable in the environment, we used food to attract her from one end of our CBA lab to the other end. The situation seemed to work perfectly. All of us could function in this quiet, non-threatening laboratory and cat food proved to be an excellent stimulus for Putzi.
Subsequently, our testing procedure followed a regular sequence with each of us performing specified roles. I operated the camera, while one woman held Putzi, then released her to run to the food being offered by the other woman. Putzi was a quick learner and understood the food-running drill after only a few trials. From that point forward, she would very cooperatively walk or run to the food and, fortunately, on most of the trials, she stepped on the force plate during the trip. The major problem, after we had solved the training strategy, was to keep her interest in the food particularly as her stomach became fuller. Putzi willing ran, trotted, and walked for her food until she determined that personal hygiene was more important. Once she began her grooming process, we humans learned that the testing session was finished for the day.
While she seemed very happy to participate in our research study, Putzi did have some other, more independent, ideas. She produced three kittens! After they had been old enough to be without their mother, Ruth raised the kittens in her home. Eventually, these kittens grew up and produced more kittens until we had a total of twenty-two cats. They were all skilled at running across the force plate between Ann and Ruth. Perhaps a more apt description was from a human to their food. It would be nice to anthropomorphize their thoughts as contributing their efforts to science but I think it was really only about food.
The cats lived at the University in a special housing room just for them. Every Friday, Ruth would bundle all of the cats into carrying crates and drive to our lab. They would stay in the bathroom-storage room area until we tested them on Sunday morning. This worked well for all of us, since the CBA staff left for the weekend on Fridays and returned on Monday mornings. Ann and I worked every weekend so we were always there to make sure our feline family was happy and content during their weekends away from their University home. Every Sunday morning, Ruth, Ann, and I would film each cat as it galloped, trotted, and walked. Their rate was dramatically linked to their hunger level. By the time they were satiated, sitting and washing their paws and faces was the only task they were interested in performing.
Since Ann and I were the only CBA personnel in the lab during the weekends, we were more than willing to help one of our fellow graduate student friends in Physical Anthropology when he asked us to help him test his monkey, Daisy. Dennis, the student, was working on the locomotion of monkeys and wanted to measure the forces which the monkey produced during a jump and how the leap affected the growth of bone development. He had successfully correlated some movement parameters with his research monkey, Daisy. However, he needed some actual, quantifiable movement data to evaluate whether any of his theoretical concepts regarding causation of some of the bony structures on the ancient artifacts that he was studying were consistent with actual activity patterns. When Dennis asked if I could help him with the project, my answer was “Of course.” Little did I know what excitement would ensue.
On a sunny spring Saturday, Dennis and his assistant arrived at our CBA lab with Daisy, the monkey. Dennis was a huge man well over six feet, five inches. He had bushy hair and a full beard. Dressed in denim coveralls, Dennis resembled Paul Bunyan, the giant, mythical lumberjack but he had replaced his big blue ox with a monkey! Despite his enormous size, he was one of the gentlest, soft-spoken people I have ever met.
After we had gather in our laboratory near the force platform, Dennis described the different activities which he wanted Daisy to perform. One test that he wanted to measure was for Daisy to jump down from a table onto the force platform. The second test was for her to jump up onto the table. In addition to the force data, we would film the movements so Dennis could use the kinematic data to complete his study. Dennis walked around our lab with Daisy on her leash so that she would become familiar with all the equipment and whatever else monkeys need to know in new environments. In the meantime, Ann and I set up the cameras, lights, and force platform controls. After everything had been arranged, it was time for Daisy to jump up and down from the table.
Unfortunately, things that humans want are not always what monkeys are inclined to do. We quickly learned that humans and monkey behavior are not necessarily operating on the same wavelengths. Dennis would try to have Daisy jump down from the table but Daisy was interested in jumping sideways, up towards the ceiling lights, or in any direction other than the one he wanted. We tried the other test but Daisy was not interested in jumping up onto the table either. Dennis and his helper offered her bananas and other monkey treats, but mostly, she was interested in going in every direction rather than up and down. Finally, she demonstrated her complete distain for her handlers by jumping down onto the plate and performed a bathroom task! Yuck!
After this exciting lab experience, Dennis was quite embarrassed by Daisy’s performance. Of course, scientific research proceeded after a brief clean up. Daisy was more cooperative after her independent “performance” so we were able to record her leaps up as well as those jumping down.
Suddenly, the front door opened and in walked our CBA chairman and co-owner, Larry Graham. Imagine the shocked look on his face when he saw our sophisticated laboratory filled with a monstrous hairy human, a monkey screeching and jumping on a leash, and banana pieces flying around the room. Ann and I were speechless. After a brief moment, all of us regained our speech and began talking simultaneously. Finally, thoroughly shocked and confused, Larry held up his hands and we all became quiet. Larry said that he had just completed a meeting at the local branch of the bank and decided to drop in to say “hello”. He continued that he would just use the bathroom and be on his way.
Ann and I were flabbergasted and had no idea what to do or say as we stood frozen. We had never told Larry about the cat study. So, of course, Larry had nothing to prepare him for what was waiting in the bathroom. We held our breaths as he opened the bathroom door and out flew twenty-two cats! Of course, Daisy went completely wild! Dennis and his assistant had their hands full while Daisy tried to catch first one cat and then another. The cats were racing around the lab high and low searching for food. Ann and I were torn between hysteria and trauma. Larry stood motionless, speechless, and stared into the now empty bathroom. Slowly, as though in a dream, he turned. With a confused expression on his face and in his voice, he said he would go home and would see us on Monday as he walked out the front door.
Larry was back in the office on Monday and we had a good laugh following the explanation of the whole story about the cats and the monkey. He was a good sport about the whole episode and was actually very positive about the contribution that CBA was making to science. We learned many years later that Larry had gone home, and walked directly to the bar for a big stiff drink! His wife, Muriel, asked him what was wrong. His answer was, “Don’t ask; you would never believe it anyway!”
After several months of data acquisition, Ruth confirmed that she had enough trials of each gait. The cats were allowed to hang out in their University home while she began the lengthy and laborious task of tracing and recording the values needed for her complex and complicated mathematical equations. She spent two to four hours every day and doubled that number on the weekends in our CBA laboratory processing the biomechanical data. She was a careful research investigator and meticulously recorded the velocity, acceleration, force, and timing for each trial for each of the cats. The long hours which we spent together solidified the already strong bond of friendship between the three of us.
Now that the data collection for the biomechanical data for the study was completed, Dr. Spinali wanted to de-cerebrate the cats. His goal was to determine whether or not the cats possessed spinal generators. The neurological concept of the spinal generator was based on the theory that there is automatic or reflex type actions resident within the spinal column which eliminated the need for higher-level brain or neural input to produce movement. It became clear that Dr. Spinali’s portion of the study from the NIH, which was providing the funding for the research we were pursuing, was totally unacceptable to some of us.
De-cerebration meant that Dr. Spinali would cut the connection between the spinal cord and the brain but not euthanatize the cats. After he completed his, to us gruesome research, then cats would be sacrificed. When Ruth and Ann heard about this aspect of the study, they were distraught, yet determined to save the cats. They subscribed to the concept that “these cats had already given their lives to science; they do not have to die for science.” There had to be a way to satisfy the NIH study proposal without killing the cats. We had to present a logical, persuasive alternative test which would produce the information required.
My suggestion was that instead of mutilating the cats, we would restrict the movement of the cat’s head by having them wear a harness or a visual blindfold to prevent the cats from seeing the ground. This visual “block” would create an environment that allowed the cat to move as normally as possible but prevent them from seeing what lay in or on the ground in front of them. Comparison between normal and visually restricted movements would be a better investigative comparison than intact, normal motion versus decerebrated gaits. The acquired data would reveal a more normal adaptation of their nervous systems to their movement experiences and whether there were differences in the gait parameters. Ruth’s mathematical equations would be based on data from intact animals rather than comparing normal and unrealistically abnormal ones.
We compiled a list of comprehensive and persuasive reasons explaining why the research study should be modified. Although our reasons were very personal and animal friendly, we believed that the resultant data would provide more realistic information regarding brain control mechanisms and/or decision-making. This was, after all, the goal of the research.
After several meetings with Dr. Arbib, he agreed with our modified research proposal. We then had to convince the NIH that these procedures would allow us to collect more and better information than by using the crueler method which had originally been proposed. The NIH committee sent to evaluate our study readily agreed to our rationale and well-conceived alternatives. Ruth, Ann, and I were so thrilled although the cats appeared rather blasé about their fate. Perhaps, they were as terrified as we were but were better actors!
We proceeded to collect the movement data using equipment to modify and restrict the cat’s vision. In addition, we added an additional activity. We created a depression in the floor, which was equivalent to missing a step for a human walking down stairs. The cat would be moving horizontally and, suddenly, the ground would be gone, just like a missing step. Needless to say, being cats, their locomotive skills allowed them to quickly recover and continue the path towards their food. However, we were able to record the kinematic parameters of this disturbed motion pattern.
The data collection was now complete using normal and impaired vision, as well as a physical disruption with which the feline brain had to cope. The results revealed some underlying principles in the neural control of locomotion in cats. This information provided some interesting challenges on how the human brain may control our movement when we are walking and running. Dr. Arbib was extremely enthusiastic about the quantity and quality of the research and excited about the neural architectural concepts which he could incorporate into his own research.
The study was submitted and accepted for publication in Advances in Behavioral Biology in 1974.
We had collected all of the data we needed and our studies had been presented and published. It was time to find homes for our 22 beautiful cats. Ruth and Ann were determined to find a loving home for each cat. They placed advertisements in the local newspaper, called friends and family members around the U.S. searching for the right home for each of the 22 feline personalities. Eventually, they were all placed in welcoming, loving homes and Ruth and Ann were able to relax.
The research mission had been successfully accomplished. Dr. Arbib had extensive research findings to puzzle over in his quest to understand the human brain architecture in contrast to feline neural structures. Ruth received her Ph.D. and moved to Philadelphia to pursue a further degree. Ann was happy with her contribution to the NIH study and returned to work on her own Ph.D. I began to enjoy the extra time for my own work on Sunday mornings. Of all the participants, perhaps the cats had the best ending to the study although they were unaware of what their fate had originally been. Maybe the idea of cozy, comfortable, and loving homes can be more than a wished for dream.
After our cat research, CBA’s work made another unusual transition. If you had asked me at that time, as a former discus thrower, a biomechanical expert in numerous industrial applications and equipment design, as well as a recent student of feline locomotion what I knew about the violin, I would have answered that I liked listening to it. However, I never imagined that our company would find an application in the field of classical music. Although I loved classical music and we listened to the local Public Broadcasting Station in our lab, I was surprised to receive a call from the famous violinist, Paul Zukofsky. He asked if he could visit our lab so we set a date in two weeks. I confess that I was puzzled about why he wanted to come to our lab with his violin.
Two weeks later, Paul arrived in our laboratory in Amherst. He explained that he had some grant money from Bell Laboratories in New Jersey. Things began to make more sense as he described the relationship between Bell Labs and music. Bell Labs was focused on information about sounds. This included any sounds from low frequency whale communication to high pitched violin notes. Paul, as an accomplished violinist, was particularly interested in studying specific violin performances such as executing some arrangements by Paganini. Paul had found that many violinists were unable to perform certain musical compositions. He pointed out that, to date, there had been virtually no integrated studies of such a highly complex skill as violin playing. As the hours passed and we discussed the issues that he had, I realized that his questions ultimately related to the limits, correlations, and constraints on the coordination between hands and arms when playing the violin. It became apparent that the biomechanical technique of evaluating a violin performer was not that different from analyzing a Shot Putter or a Discus Thrower. Basically, quantifying motion using our kinematic techniques was applicable to most movements. Our motto: “IF IT MOVES, WE CAN MEASURE IT” was appropriate for playing the violin as well as throwing the discus.
After a day of discussions, we agreed on the details for a research study. Mr. Zukofsky was confident that Bell Labs would agree to fund the study and we arranged for him to return to Amherst to perform. We made sure that he understood all of the equipment that he would need to bring on that day so that we could acquire all of the data in one session. He needed to bring his instrument, a music stand, and the sheet music that he planned to play. In addition, to perform the most accurate biomechanical analysis, the joint centers should be exposed as much as possible. This usually resulted in the study subject in bare feet wearing only shorts and sleeveless shirts. Needless to say, this was not the normal attire for a concert violinist. However, to achieve his research goals, Paul agreed to most of our clothing requirements. Shorts and a sleeveless shirt were acceptable, but he insisted on wearing his concert shoes! Apparently, shoes really do, make the man.
In order to perform a three-dimensional (3D) analysis at that time, we had to film from three orthogonal perspectives simultaneously. The first two views were from the front and from the side. However, we really wanted to have an overhead view for the unique movements associated with playing the violin. Therefore, we would have to film outside, since we would have to place the third camera on the roof. Since the operator of the roof camera had to be suspended out and over the violinist, we had to hire a local building contractor to arrange the support mechanism. At last, the filming arrangements were complete. Now we had to have our violinist, Paul Zukofsky.
The day of testing was a relatively normal late spring day in western Massachusetts. That is, not too cold or hot and partly cloudy. Paul would have to stand on a pedestal outside our laboratory facing the busy road and play the musical segments that his study involved. We began the filming session with his first musical selection.
Imagine the scene as it unfolded: A storefront between a paint store and a sandwich shop on a busy road. Three groups of photographers with cameras, notepads, and signs to identify each of the trial selections. One of the photographers was suspended from the roof. Most importantly was the semi-naked man playing the violin.
Before long, the cars on Route 9 began to stop and watch this bizarre tableau. Soon the local police arrived to determine what was causing the traffic jam. They were initially skeptical but I assured them that we were performing research which could not be conducted indoors since we needed the overhead camera view. Finally, I convinced them that we needed only a few more hours to complete our work and then we could go back inside our office. The policeman understood our needs but he insisted on providing two officers to control the traffic. I have often wondered what language he used to write the notes of the day regarding personnel deployments.
After we had processed the film data, the results were fascinating to us and to Paul. Violin playing is a highly developed and coordinated skill. The music is created by arm and hand movements which are delineated by precise rhythmic and timing commands more so than many other human activities. For instance, we discovered that for traditional violin playing, the arm holding the violin remains fixed and steady while the arm and hand holding the bow executes all the moving action. When this restricted motion is employed, some violinists are unable to play certain portions of more complex musical scores. However, allowing the fixed arm, which supports the violin, to move in coordination with the bow hand by moving the violin back and forth at appropriate frequencies, many violinists could now play musical scores which previously had been impossible for them. Paul was enthusiastic to learn these results and could hardly wait to let Bell Labs know about these findings.
We were involved with another amazing musical study which involved an analysis of playing the harp. The wife of Dr. Bejani, one of our customers, was a World-renown harpist. The idea was to collect the EMG (electromyography) of the muscles of the arms and fingers of the harpist as she played a piece of music. The EMG signals and the sound frequencies of the harp were recorded simultaneously and stored in a computer.
The next step was for the harpist to move her fingers in the same way that she had before only this time she “performed” without the harp. That is to say, she “played” an imaginary harp. For this second “performance” the EMG was also collected. The EMG signals that were produced were aligned with the sound frequencies produced when the harp was played. By aligning the new EMG signal with previously produced music, the harpist was able to “play” the notes without the harp itself. In other words, we could let the harpist play the harp without physically touching the instrument. Merely recreating the motions with her fingers, our system was collecting the muscle action and playing the music!
We soon found ourselves in another arena appropriate for biomechanical analysis which was product liability and insurance claims. Since our biomechanical system could evaluate movement parameters with a high degree of precision, we could produce specific quantifiable results without subjective bias. This objectivity was particularly important in cases of injuries or fraud cases which were frequently influenced by inadequate or mistaken information.
Insurance companies are often the victims of false claims but have few tools at their disposal to dispute them. Several insurance companies had learned that our analysis was scientifically based rather than reliant on guesses and opinions, we were able to provide definitive information about various products and their uses. We also learned that law firms frequently were most interested in the facts rather than whether the product had performed correctly or not. In order to prepare proper legal defenses, lawyers needed accurate information.
One of our first studies involved Dow Chemical. The law firm of Corlett, Merritt, Killian, and Sikes were representing Dow Chemical and their insurance carrier, Fireman’s Fund, when they approached us. They were involved with a sad and unfortunate case involving a severely injured gymnast.
A promising high school gymnast in southern Florida was completing his regular afternoon gymnastics training session. The young man was devoted to his sport and spent many extra hours practicing old skills as well as trying to add new tricks to his routines. One particular afternoon, at the end of a rigorous training session, he wanted to try his newest floor exercise running stunt without using the support harness. At that point, he felt that he had mastered the trick and wanted to perform it before he quit for the day. He raced across the mat executing front and back acrobatic maneuvers and then launched himself into the air for the final backward rotating somersault round off which would open up as he landed on both feet facing the opposite direction from the takeoff. Unfortunately, the young man was unable to complete the rotation and landed on his head and neck. His neck was broken and, when the lawyers visited us in Amherst, the young gymnast was in an iron lung.
“What had gone wrong and who was to blame?” was the question put to us. That question caused everyone involved to be sued: the gym owners, the coaches, and the manufactures of the mat materials. Dow Chemical had manufactured the material, ethafoam, used inside the mat. It was alleged that there had been negligence in manufacturing. We were surprised to learn that ethafoam had been originally developed by Dow specifically for the U.S. Department of Defense as packing material for shipping bombs to Vietnam. Now, it was being used for a more peaceful purpose but the question was is it the appropriate material for gymnastic mats.
We proceeded to test all of the mats supplied by Dow. They provided mats of various thicknesses from one-half inches to four inches, with and without the gymnastic outer covering, as well as all of the other gymnastic mats marketed at that time. Our research plan was two-fold: to biomechanical analyze actual gymnasts performing the stunt and to utilize our patented material test device with the force platform to evaluate the material characteristics of each mat sample.
We located a Connecticut University gymnastic team which had gymnasts of similar size and skill levels of the injured Florida gymnast. We filmed these athletes performing the same trick that the injured gymnast had tried to execute. Based on the data we obtained on these actual performances, we subjected the test mats to our computerized hydraulic material testing equipment using the force platform to record the forces.
These tests provided interesting results. The first issue concerned the forces necessary for the gymnast to successfully execute the complete rotation and land on his feet. We were able to quantify these forces and presented a table based on the gymnasts we had evaluated. Then we used those forces to impact the mat and were able to provide a table of those values as well.
We notified the law firm and the other parties involved in the suit to come to our office for a presentation of our results. At the meeting, we explained the physics involved in this specific gymnastic stunt. Gymnasts must produce an adequate amount of force downward towards the floor in order to generate sufficient forces upwards to complete the trick. If the mat is too thick, it absorbs too much of the downward force. In other words, a mat which is too thick functions as a shock absorber. Conversely, a thin, rigid surface such as a floor with a non-slip surface absorbs little of the downward force but has no shock absorbing characteristics. With the rigid surface, however, the forces downward are returned to the gymnast in an upward direction with little or no loss due to shock absorption. A perfect mat would be rigid at takeoff and thick and soft during landings. Another way to consider this concept is that “you cannot shoot a canon out of a canoe.”
We had tested gymnasts and all of the different mats. Essentially, we concluded the thickness of the mat used in Florida was appropriate for executing the trick. At the time he attempted to execute this stunt, he was unable to generate enough force to completely rotate his body. Perhaps he was too tired since it was at the end of a long, rigorous session or maybe he was slightly off balance at takeoff. These or other reasons prevented the gymnast from generating enough force to complete the turn and resulted in landing on his head and neck.
Unfortunately, there are no mats which are soft enough to land on your head and neck but which are sufficiently firm to takeoff and execute the skill. There are foam pits designed for soft landings, such as pole vault and high jump pits among others, but they are completely appropriate for gymnastic events. The foot, leg, and hip joints are designed by nature to provide shock absorption but there is no shock absorbing characteristics in the joints of the neck or the head. Had the young man landed on almost any other part of his body, in all likelihood, the damages would have been less severe.
Our analysis, thus, demonstrated that it was impossible for a substance to be both non-resilient enough to permit an individual to complete a somersault round-off trick yet resilient enough to absorb an injury of the kind experienced by the young gymnast. Dow Chemical and their insurance carrier were much more sympathetic than many corporations and insurance carriers of our more modern times appear to be. They offered an extraordinarily generous settlement to the boy and his family which would provide financial relief to them immediately rather than involvement in a protracted legal entanglement. I am pleased to report that despite the tragedy that the family had to endure at least they did not have to worry about the financial expenses.
Following the gymnastic mat project, we were hired to perform our biomechanical analysis on another case involved an injury on a trampoline. A young female athlete was practicing on the trampoline, executed a backward flip, and landed on the edge rather than the center of the trampoline. She broke her neck and the family sued the trampoline manufacturer.
The results of our biomechanical analyses revealed that people are easily able to increase their jump heights on a trampoline compared with jumping from a solid floor-like surface. Unfortunately, being able to reach greater heights does not necessarily mean that the skill to execute various stunts is as easily obtained. In other words, if someone offered you $200.00 to jump from the floor and perform a back flip, you most likely would think twice about your ability to successfully perform such a task. But if you were standing on a trampoline and were offered the same $200.00 challenge, you would more readily considerate it. Because you can bounce higher and higher on a trampoline, you would believe that you could execute a backwards flip. In all likelihood, as you increased height with each bounce, you would be able to flip over backwards but would you be able to control the stunt and land on your feet?
Most people realize the risk of trying to jump backwards from the floor, but fail to realize that it is even more dangerous from an elevated height produced by jumping on a trampoline. Although it is possible to have reach a height that allowed you to perform a flip, on landing, you would impact the trampoline surface from a greater height than you would ever be able to achieve from the floor. Think about the physics involved. Landing from a jump height of two feet results in less force on the body than landing from a height of 10 feet. A person may be willing to jump two feet to the grass from the front porch but be less willing to jump out of the second-floor window. The increase in height significantly increases the risk to your body. The injury potential is augmented if you land on your head rather than on your feet.
An additional component is skill. It may look east to “bounce” on a trampoline. However, skill and training are required to control the jump so that the landing is in the center of the trampoline rather than being thrown off balance and landing at different locations on the surface. Lacking skill can cause the jumper to fail to land in the center of the trampoline but rather on the edge as was the case in the young woman we investigated. Although trampolines can be fun and are becoming common, it is prudent to learn how to use them safely.
American football seemed to grow in popularity in many categories across age groups including elementary, middle, and high schools, semi-professional, and professional teams as well as across international boundaries. Unfortunately, football injuries also seem to increase every year despite the efforts to improve skills, coaching, sideline physical training, and protective equipment.
A liability case involving a football helmet was brought to CBA and we were asked to evaluate this helmet and their competitors’ products. We were provided films of the actual injury since one of the local television stations had televised the game. The injured athlete, a high school senior, had a severe neck fracture and was now a quadriplegic.
Sadly, the injury resulted from a type of tackle known as “spearing”. “Spearing” occurs when the player attacks the opponent with the head while keeping his shoulders and torso rigid. In any tackle, the forces generated have to go somewhere. Helmets are rigid on the outside with a foam interior but this design cannot absorb the forces generated during impact. Therefore, the forces are directed to the next part of the chain which, in this case, would be the neck. The neck has no shock absorbing structures so the forces generated resulted in fracturing the athlete’s neck.
One solution would be to design a helmet that could absorb and dissipate the impact forces. If the helmet were softer or had a bumper, like on the front of a car, the forces would be reduced during the impact. Another solution would be to have the helmet and shoulder pads joined in some fashion to provide a method to reduce the impact forces. A spearing tackle may be illegal in today’s football but head impacts from spearing or other incidences continue to occur. Unfortunately, there still are no well-designed helmets for reducing, buffering, or deflecting forces resulting from impact.
Another one of our most high profile cases involved Johnny Carson who, at that time, was a well-known television personality. Mr. Carson contended that he suffered an injury to his neck and back as a result of falling from an exercise slant board. His contention was his fall was a direct result of the slant board malfunctioning. Mr. Carson filed for $500,000 in damages against LNR Industries and their insurance carriers. The company and their insurance carriers contacted CBA for us to evaluate the claims. Their goal was to determine whether they had a defective product and, if so, how they could correct it.
In our Amherst laboratory, we studied the description of the accident that Mr. Carson had given during his deposition. We then replicated the activity exactly as he described using a test subject the same size and weight of Mr. Carson. In addition, we had the test subject perform the exercise following the precise directions from the slant board company which accompanied each one of their products at the time of purchase. We employed high-speed cinematography to record these replicated movements and then performed our computerized biomechanical techniques.
The results of our biomechanical analysis revealed different outcomes depending on the exercise technique employed. The slant board manufacturer specifically described how the board was to be placed at the top and the bottom. In the instruction manual, the feet were to be slipped under the bar at the top of the board and then the head and body were raised or curled up towards the feet. The purpose of the slant board was to provide exercise for the abdominal region and, when the user followed the directions, it was virtually impossible for the slant board to tip.
However, the technique that Mr. Carson employed was to hold the bar at the top of the board with his hands and to raise his legs upwards and towards his head. This abdominal exercise technique was a viable alternative but with the restriction that the legs should only be lifted into a vertical position which was perpendicular to the floor. Under no conditions were the legs to be elevated higher such that the feet reached the head. When the legs were raised over the user’s head, the board became unsteady. The results of raising the legs over the head caused the board to tip and the user to fall off. Since he used the board incorrectly, by reversing the head and leg positions, Mr. Carson produced a situation, which caused the board to flip over, and he fell.
We presented our finding to the LNR Industries and the lawyers representing their insurance carrier. These findings were not received with joy by the opposing counsel. They contacted an independent engineering firm, Truesdail Laboratories to have the board analyzed. Truesdail Laboratories confirmed our results. In addition, they indicated in their report that our results were more accurate than anyone else could produce, since we had employed a dynamic analysis, whereas they were only able to execute a static analysis. Mr. Carson withdrew his suit.
At the same time we were working on the Carson slant board project, another sporting goods manufacturer, AMF, contacted us. At that time, AMF produced and sold a variety of sports products and were in the same market arena as were Spalding and Wilson Sporting Goods. In 1971, American Machine and Foundry had been renamed AMF. For many years, the company had produced a wide variety of sport and leisure equipment including Roadmaster bicycles, Harley-Davidson motorcycles, Head snow skis and tennis racquets, snowmobiles, lawn and garden equipment, Ben Hogan golf clubs, Voit inflatable balls, exercise equipment (including exercycles), motorized bicycles, mopeds, SlickCraft powerboats, Alcort sailboats (including the Sunfish and the Hilu), Hatteras Yachts, and SCUBA gear. In the 1970s, in a reference to its numerous leisure product lines, the company began a TV advertising campaign centered on the slogan “AMF, WE MAKE WEEKENDS”.
The first project AMF proposed to us involved their tennis rackets. They wanted to reduce the strain at the elbow which caused tennis elbow. Their goal was to change the location of the “sweet spot” on the racket into order to reduce or eliminate rotation caused by hitting the ball at the wrong point on the racket.
What is the “sweet spot” of the tennis racket? The term “sweet spot” is commonly used to identify the center of percussion. The center of percussion is often discussed in the context of a bat, racquet, door, sword or other extended object held at one end. The sweet spot on a baseball bat is generally defined as the point at which the impact “feels” best to the batter. The center of percussion defines a place where, if the bat strikes the ball and the batter’s hands are at the pivot point, the batter feels no sudden reactive force. However, since a bat is not a rigid object the vibrations produced by the impact also play a role. Also, the pivot point of the swing may not be at the place where the batter’s hands are placed. Research has shown that the dominant physical mechanism in determining where the sweet spot is arises from the location of nodes in the vibrational modes of the bat not the location of the center of percussion.
The center of percussion concept can be applied to swords as well. Being flexible objects, the “sweet spot” for such cutting weapons depends not only on the center of percussion but also on the flexing and vibrational characteristics.
The center of percussion is the point on an object, in our AMF case the tennis racket, where a perpendicular impact will produce translational and rotational forces which perfectly cancel each other at some given pivot point so that the pivot will not be moving momentarily after the impulse. As with the baseball bat, the center of percussion may or may not be the sweet spot depending on the pivot point chosen. In addition, this description only works for a racket rigidly mounted on a stand. When a human holds the racket in the hand, the hand, arm, and shoulder must also be factored into the equation.
Most people think that a tennis ball should strike the racket face exactly in the center in order to hit the sweet spot. However, the racket is more than its face with regards to its sweet spot. The handle, grip, and the arm holding the racket must be considered as part of the mechanical system. Therefore, the sweet spot is more correctly located away from the geometric center of the racket face and more towards the junction of the head with the shaft of the racket.
We proposed a project to AMF to determine where the sweet spot was located in three different conditions. One condition was when the racket was rigidly fixed in a devise mounted to the force platform. A second condition was when the racket was allowed to hang from a rope. The third situation was when a human held the racket in the hand.
At that time, tennis rackets were primarily made of wood with nylon or gut used as strings. These were in the days before the technologically advanced composite materials used for frames and the equally advanced strings compositions which are common in the modern world of tennis. In addition, most tennis stokes were flat hits which means that there was few backspins, slices, or twists. Therefore, our study examined all of the leading wood rackets and we strung them with gut and with nylon. There were no other options at that time for us to evaluate.
We tested all of the rackets and string combinations under each condition: fixed, hanging from a rope, and held by a human. Following our biomechanical analysis, we presented our results to the AMF engineers. We showed them that the sweet spot is not in the geometrical center of the racket when a ball hits the face. The actual location is closer to the hand. This meant that when a player hit a tennis ball, the racket would turn in the hand which contributed to tennis elbow injuries. We recommended some suggestions that could reduce the stress and/or remedy the situation.
One of our ideas was to increase the size of the racket head and, if possible, eliminate or severely reduce the length of the shaft. In other words, make a racket with a short-shaft handle and a large circular racket head. A second proposal was to develop a handle that allowed the shaft to turn or twist within the handle which would prevent the transmission of the forces up the arm to the elbow. When we had described the situation to him, Ann’s father invented just such a handle. He was quite an amateur inventor, or tinkerer, as he called it and had devised this prototype solution as an idea he had to solve the force or torque transmissions. We presented this device to the AMF engineers when they came to our office for our test results.
The AMF engineers were somewhat taken aback by our novel solutions. They were worried that the playing public would laugh at the big head on a short stick concept. But they accepted our results and went back to their labs to consider our findings. It transpired that there were some internal frictions within the company and the engineer, Howard Head, wanted to pursue the large head racket idea. AMF balked at this choice. Howard Head eventually left AMF and founded Prince rackets and the large head racket became today’s tennis racket standard. As of today, there are no tennis rackets on the market with a shaft turning in the handle to prevent the transference of forces from a miss hit ball up the arm to the elbow.
Another project which AMF brought to us was known as the “three-wheeled vehicle”. The device resembled a tricycle except that the rider stood up on foot-sized pedals and then guided the vehicle by turning the tall handlebars. Movement was created by shifting the weight of the rider from side-to-side much like a speed skater does. Stopping the vehicle required pushing the foot pedals supports down with the heels.
We probably had more fun with this project than any of our other ones! The staff would ride around the building, darting between people and cars, and whizzing past the obstacles we arranged in the parking lot behind the building. Luckily, we had no accidents with surprised drivers backing out of their parking spots. However, there were some near accidents on the busy road in front of our lab by rubbernecking drivers so the local police, again, visited us. They were always entertained by our current projects but insisted, in the interest of public safety, that we should ride behind the building rather than in front. We let them try this “three-wheeled vehicle” for themselves and it was entertaining to watch our uniformed officers zipping around on the paved driveway behind our office. They seemed to have as much fun as we did riding the vehicles.
Our biomechanical analyses showed that the vehicle was a very efficient device, quiet, and safe. There were no problems with tipping over such as one could experience with a two-wheeled bike and they were only as fast as human power could generate. They were especially useful on smooth flat surfaces such as linoleum floors commonly used in factories, airline terminals, and malls. AMF was pleased with our findings and left our office with dreams of adding to their weekend fun theme.
We continued to work on projects at CBA, I was busy with my computer science studies and Ann was working on her doctoral dissertation project. That is to say, ordinary life went on until one day I was visited by one of my greatest heroes, Al Oerter. The athlete whose picture had hung above my bed in Hadassim after he won his Helsinki medals in 1952 and Melbourne in 1956, who beat me in the Rome Olympics in 1960 and in the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, was visiting me in my own lab! It is impossible to describe the admiration and awe I felt about Al and the joy and excitement must have been palpable. Al wanted my assistance to improve his discus throw so he could participate in the 1980 Olympics in Moscow at the tender age of 44. I assured him that we would do everything possible to help him accomplish this goal.
We worked intensely with Al on this project. I was elated to be working with my long-time idol and longed for him to achieve another Olympic Gold medal. We filmed him as he threw the discus and we had him execute some special tests on the force plate. Our biomechanical studies showed that, even at the age of 44, by focusing his strength and speed correctly, he could break the World Record and exceed the qualifying distance for Olympic participation.
Al, a computer engineer himself, watched himself on our computer screen as we presented the biomechanical results. He could see how much better he performed with some minor modifications in his technique. Al was such a great athlete that he could master these changes and continued to train for the next Olympics.
Unfortunately, President Carter initiated a number of actions to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. One of these actions, led by the U.S., was for nations to boycott participation in the 1980 Moscow Olympics Games. This boycott ended the Olympics dreams of many Western athletes as other nations decided not to participate. Despite this emotional setback, Al and I continued to train in anticipation of his participation in the 1984 Olympics which were to be held in Los Angeles.
By now, we had hundreds of world-class athletes coming to our lab from all over the world. Among them were two World Record Holders in the Shot, Al Feuerbach, and the discus, Mac Wilkins. We worked with these athletes as we had with Al Oerter to help improve their techniques for future competitions.
In 1976, a group from Sports Illustrated unexpectedly visited the CBA laboratory. I was teaching a class at the University at the time and knew nothing about this surprise visit. Ann came out of her office to talk with them and they explained that they wanted to do an article about my technology and me. One of the first questions Ann asked was how many days it would take for the interview process. The answer to her question was that they expected to need three to five days.
“So,” Ann said, “this would cost $25,000.”
“Perhaps I was unclear,” she answered. “I mean the cost of taking three to five days of our time and effort is $25,000.”
“I am sure you are correct but, unfortunately, we are unable to invest so much time in advertising. For us, time away from our projects puts our productivity and credibility with our customers at risk. When we promise to deliver results on time, we always honor our word. If we have to take time away from our work, it costs us the amount I mentioned to you. We love Sports Illustrated and read it all the time, but at this point, we really cannot afford to invest this time in advertising. Thank you for your interest but I am sorry to have to say, ‘No’.” Ann responded. Kenny Moore and his team shook hands with her, not believing what had just happened, and left the lab.
When I returned to the lab after my class, Ann related the visit and her response. I could not believe it. “Ann, you are crazy! We probably lost millions in future projects and publicity!”
I was upset for days. During the weekend, I sat in the office glaring up at the ceiling. I could not do any work and was really depressed. On Monday morning, the telephone rang. “This is Kenny Moore from Sports Illustrated,” the voice said. “We have decided to pay you the $25,000 because we want to do this article and realize the financial hardship you would suffer by our taking your time.”
I was ecstatic and assured Kenny that he would find our laboratory, projects, and me to be fascinating. I thanked him for reconsidering us and for finding a way to resolve the financial dilemma. We set a date for them to come to the office.
I could not believe it. Ann had been correct… again.
This article provided worldwide interest and the cache of Sports Illustrated yielded an authenticity which continues today. The Sports Illustrated article was seven pages in length and outlined in detail the methods we used and some of the projects that we had completed. One aspect of the article was that Sports Illustrated interviewed some of the athletes and quoted them as to how much they appreciated our help in improving their results. It was a very positive article for us.
With these types of projects and studies, our business was firmly established. Our name, as the first and only biomechanical company, was becoming well known. We continued to work on business projects, classes, and doctoral studies and, of course, exercised every day. However, sometimes it “rains on the parade.”