Bas­ket­ball play­ers, be­ware! The Flop­buster is com­ing

Modern Healthcare - - OUTLIERS ASIDES & INSIDES -

What is the Flop­buster X1 5000, you ask? It’s the de­vice used by biome­chan­ics ex­perts at South­ern Methodist Univer­sity to study how bas­ket­ball play­ers at­tempt to fool ref­er­ees into call­ing fouls by un­nec­es­sar­ily fall­ing to the ground.

That prac­tice is called flop­ping, and it’s a hotly de­bated topic among bas­ket­ball fans. In­stead of us­ing ath­letic skill to win a game, flop­pers use their thes­pian skills to feign con­tact and per­haps use dra­matic arm ges­tures or facial ex­pres­sions. Th­ese the­atrics trick ref­er­ees into call­ing fouls. Some play­ers may even fake an in­jury to en­sure ref­er­ees be­lieve il­le­gal con­tact with an­other player has oc­curred.

The NBA im­poses fines af­ter games on play­ers who are found to be guilty of flop­ping. Mi­ami Heat su­per­star LeBron James has gone so far as to ad­vo­cate the prac­tice: “Any way you can get an ad­van­tage over the op­po­nent to help your team win, so be it,” he told re­porters in May.

How­ever, Mark Cuban, the ec­cen­tric owner of the Dal­las Mav­er­icks, and oth­ers want flop­ping banned. Cuban paid $100,000 to re­searchers at SMU to con­duct an 18-month study on flop­ping, with re­sults ex­pected by Au­gust 2014. Cuban could then sub­mit the re­sults to NBA of­fi­cials so they could an­a­lyze data and make changes in how ref­er­ees call games.

En­ter the Flop­buster, a lov­ingly named push-bar de­vice that will mea­sure the amount of force dur­ing test col­li­sions. Peter Weyand, head of SMU’s six-mem­ber re­search team, said “5,000” is a ref­er­ence to the max­i­mum level of New­tons the de­vice can han­dle.

It’s the first time a study like this has been at­tempted. Re­searchers will look at hu­man mus­cu­la­ture. They’ll ex­am­ine how play­ers can tense up their bod­ies to avoid fall­ing down, ver­sus how play­ers can loosen up so they can eas­ily flop to­ward the ground. The tri­als will be video-recorded. Will the data lead to the end of flop­ping? “Oh, I’m not go­ing on the record say­ing that,” said Weyand, who grew up a Bos­ton Celtics fan.

“As we looked into it, the sci­en­tific op­por­tu­nity just to learn ba­sic in­for­ma­tion was pretty sig­nif­i­cant,” he added. “We’re struc­tur­ing and study­ing the data ap­pli­ca­tion to find out how that can be use­ful for the NBA.”


Hey, is that a flop? LeBron James has been known to de­fend the prac­tice.

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