2015 Archives

March’s True Madness: Flopping


The following is from the March 17, 2015, edition of The Wall Street Journal. Peter G. Weyand, SMU associate professor of applied physiology and biomechanics, provided expertise for this story.

March 24, 2015

By Brian Costa

At some point during every NCAA tournament game, a player with the ball will bump into a defender. The defender will fall to the floor, seemingly blown backward by the overwhelming force of his opponent. And referees will be faced with a question that is becoming increasingly difficult to answer: Was it a foul or a flop?

Mimicking the NBA, where the practice has become widespread, college players are becoming ever more proficient in the art of flopping—embellishing or outright faking blows to their bodies to convince referees to call a foul. . . 

Part of the issue for any league is the uncertainty surrounding an essential question: what amount of physical reaction should be expected on a given play?

“How much force does it really take in a typical basketball encounter to knock someone off balance?” said Peter Weyand, a physiologist and biomechanist at Southern Methodist University. “That information is not out there.”

With funding from Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, Weyand is leading a study to find out. Using people of various heights and weights, the study simulated typical basketball collisions and measured both the forces involved and the subjects’ natural reactions.

Weyand said he is close to completing his analysis of the results, which he hopes will give leagues a scientific basis for assessing whether a player’s reaction was warranted on a given play. But that won’t deter the game’s finest actors from shining on this year’s tournament stage. And not everyone thinks that’s a bad thing.

Read the full story.

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