Classification accuracy of a single tri-axial accelerometer for training background and experience level in runners.
Accelerometers are increasingly used tools for gait analysis, but there remains a lack of research on their application to running and their ability to classify running patterns. The purpose of this study was to conduct an exploratory examination into the capability of a tri-axial accelerometer to classify runners of different training backgrounds and experience levels, according to their 3-dimensional (3D) accelerometer data patterns. Training background was examined with 14 competitive soccer players and 12 experienced marathon runners, and experience level was examined with 16 first-time and the same 12 experienced marathon runners. Discrete variables were extracted from 3D accelerations during a short run using root mean square, wavelet transformation, and autocorrelation procedures. A principal component analysis (PCA) was conducted on all variables, including gait speed to account for covariance. Eight PCs were retained, explaining 88% of the variance in the data. A stepwise discriminant analysis of PCs was used to determine the binary classification accuracy for training background and experience level, with and without the PC of Speed. With Speed, the accelerometer correctly classified 96% of runners for both training background and experience level. Without Speed, the accelerometer correctly classified 85% of runners based on training background, but only 68% based on experience level. These findings suggest that the accelerometer is effective in classifying athletes of different training backgrounds, but is less effective for classifying runners of different experience levels where gait speed is the primary discriminator.