Important milestone in Balance Mat history

By Published On: 20/07/2023

An important milestone in Balance Mat history has been reached with validation of the Balance Mat by a Perth university researcher.

Dr Isaac Selva Raj (pictured) is Adjunct Senior Lecturer in Exercise and Sports Science at Edith Cowan University School of Medical and Health Sciences. He recently validated the Balance Mat against a gold standard force plate, tested its test-retest reliability and recommended its use for clinical and health settings. The big thing about this small study is that it shows the Balance Mat capability matches the capability of a force plate.

Force plates are modern machines made by large, powerful overseas companies and here I am, operating on a tiny budget in a tiny Australian company, having successfully developed this competing technology. I think the whole thing is remarkable. In hindsight it almost seems easy, but it took a monumental effort and an enormous number of different trials and different designs and different tests to get here.

Rewind to our introduction, pre-pandemic

Four years ago – in August 2019 – I had the pleasure of meeting Dr Isaac Selva Raj at RMIT University in Melbourne. He had been introduced to the Balance Mat by Associate Professor Zhen Zheng (see my last blog article about the research that Zhen, Hanife and Noel are now doing there).

At that meeting with Isaac in Melbourne four years ago he showed me his exercise physiology lab where he had a number of force plates and other equipment to measure and test athletes’ ability and he told me he was looking forward to exploring this new device of mine.

A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then – including an extended university shutdown forced by the Covid-19 pandemic, health challenges, intensive research and development efforts and the establishment of the Balance Metrix business for me, plus a move across the country from Melbourne to Perth for Isaac and his family – so it’s not as if Isaac just did a piece of research in the last two or three months. It was a good four years ago that he began assessing the Balance Mat. Apart from anything else, I think it demonstrates that research takes time to undertake.

Most people drop everything they’ve been doing when they move universities and just go on to do the next thing but I’m terribly grateful to Isaac for continuing to study the Balance Mat after moving from RMIT to Edith Cowan University. Anyone else would have forgotten about it. He’s a wonderful fellow with tremendous integrity who has shown such a professional commitment to a research project for a long time.

First report a landmark in Balance Mat history

Dr Isaac Selva Raj was important to me because he was one of the first scientific researchers to take an interest in the Balance Mat. I’m not medical; I’m not allied health; I’m not a researcher or a scientist. I didn’t have any other devices to test the Balance Mat against. I didn’t know if it worked or not.

What Isaac did was seminal to the development of the Balance Mat. He prepared an early report after testing over a few days that said there were early indications of a correlation between the results of the Balance Mat and the results of the Kistler force plate he was using at the time to measure postural sway.

Despite the limitation of the output from the mat then (we didn’t have any of the measurements for sway variance, mean sway distance, sway range, sway velocity and sway path that we do today) – that early report was extremely exciting. Until then I’d had no guarantee that what I’d developed would even work, let alone be reliable.

To make it reliable I basically made many different mats with many different configurations over time because in those early days if the same person stood on the prototype mat more than once the output would be different each time. It meant that I had to undertake years of rigorous testing to find out which designs and layouts provided consistent results, using different fibre arrangements and manufacturing methods. I was trying to work out what worked.

Dr Isaac Selva Raj tested a prototype Balance Mat in 2019. Although the system needed a lot of development back then, he gave me the confidence I needed to keep going.
Dr-Isaac-Selva-Raj-with-Balance-Mat-prototype-at-RMIT-University-Sep-2019

What Isaac did – without even really knowing it I suspect – was he gave me the confidence I needed to keep going, because he said there was some general evidence that the technology was working generally. In the intervening years, after many, many changes to the system and a calibration robot project led by University of Canberra’s Associate Professor Damith Herath, I was able to build a valid and reliable test-retest postural sway assessment system (see my blog article about the robot – that is a whole other innovation story).

Latest report another landmark

Fast-forward to 9 July 2023 and the report that Dr Selva Raj has just produced is momentous in Balance Mat history.

In it, he describes a small study he recently conducted at Edith Cowan University. It involved 17 participants from 18 to 67 years who were in good health. These participants had their postural sway assessed on the Balance Mat and an established postural sway assessment tool – the AMTI AccuSway force platform – simultaneously. The study also assessed the test-retest reliability of the Balance Mat. They were asked to perform a series of nine 20-second balance tests in various stances, mostly with their eyes open.

In 2023 Dr Raj tested the TGA-approved model of the Multimetric Balance Mat and found that it is a valid and reliable postural sway assessment tool that can be recommended for clinical and health settings.
Dr Isaac Raj uses the TGA-approved Multimetric Balance Mat in 2023 to measure postural sway

The report goes on to explain what is not always so obvious to everyone who asks me why anybody would want to test people’s balance: that postural stability – or “balance” – is important for daily living and particularly for falls prevention and sports performance.

“Therefore,” he says, “reliable and accurate postural sway assessment tools are important for monitoring the postural stability of individuals in the health and athletic context so that timely interventions can be implemented to improve postural stability when necessary.”

And this is the part that I was thrilled to read: Isaac stated that his analysis of the results demonstrated “strong to very strong positive correlations between data from the Balance Mat and the force platform” and “very strong positive correlations between the Balance Mat postural sway data from the two test-retest trials.”

The analysis comes after a lot of technical information that I don’t really understand – I’m not a statistician either – only a humble project manager of some quite brilliant electronics engineers and programmers – Dean Vey, Abishek Shrestha and Binod Shrestha. Thankfully they understand all that technical material, like how the sway data from the Balance Mat and the centre of pressure (COP) data from the force platform were compared and how the Spearman’s rank-order correlation coefficient and the Bonferroni correction settings were applied.

Isaac’s report concludes: “This study has shown that the Balance Mat is a valid tool for assessing postural sway and has good test-retest reliability. Since the Balance Mat offers advantages over traditional postural sway assessment tools due to its portability, cost-effectiveness and ease of use, it can be recommended for clinical and health settings.”

Keeping athletes at their peak

All sportspeople want to be at their peak. Every incremental gain is important to them, so if they’re finding that their balance is changing from a particular exercise regime it’s handy to know because they can improve their strength and balance and general sports ability and also measure changes and improvements in balance through different exercise regimes.

Going forward, I imagine that sports facilities, sports clubs and sports exercise physiologists and physiotherapists everywhere will all be using the Balance Mat. For the practitioners involved it’s all about keeping the athletes at their peak.

More information

For a copy of the report you can call Isaac on 0407 310 135 or email i.selvaraj@ecu.edu.au

Alternatively, you are invited to liaise with Isaac in the Balance Testing community of practice on LinkedIn where he has posted a brief summary with a view to stimulating discussion.

READ ALL MY BLOG POSTS:

Important milestone in Balance Mat history

By Published On: 20/07/20230 Comments

An important milestone in Balance Mat history has been reached with validation of the Balance Mat by a Perth university researcher.

Dr Isaac Selva Raj (pictured) is Adjunct Senior Lecturer in Exercise and Sports Science at Edith Cowan University School of Medical and Health Sciences. He recently validated the Balance Mat against a gold standard force plate, tested its test-retest reliability and recommended its use for clinical and health settings. The big thing about this small study is that it shows the Balance Mat capability matches the capability of a force plate.

Force plates are modern machines made by large, powerful overseas companies and here I am, operating on a tiny budget in a tiny Australian company, having successfully developed this competing technology. I think the whole thing is remarkable. In hindsight it almost seems easy, but it took a monumental effort and an enormous number of different trials and different designs and different tests to get here.

Rewind to our introduction, pre-pandemic

Four years ago – in August 2019 – I had the pleasure of meeting Dr Isaac Selva Raj at RMIT University in Melbourne. He had been introduced to the Balance Mat by Associate Professor Zhen Zheng (see my last blog article about the research that Zhen, Hanife and Noel are now doing there).

At that meeting with Isaac in Melbourne four years ago he showed me his exercise physiology lab where he had a number of force plates and other equipment to measure and test athletes’ ability and he told me he was looking forward to exploring this new device of mine.

A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then – including an extended university shutdown forced by the Covid-19 pandemic, health challenges, intensive research and development efforts and the establishment of the Balance Metrix business for me, plus a move across the country from Melbourne to Perth for Isaac and his family – so it’s not as if Isaac just did a piece of research in the last two or three months. It was a good four years ago that he began assessing the Balance Mat. Apart from anything else, I think it demonstrates that research takes time to undertake.

Most people drop everything they’ve been doing when they move universities and just go on to do the next thing but I’m terribly grateful to Isaac for continuing to study the Balance Mat after moving from RMIT to Edith Cowan University. Anyone else would have forgotten about it. He’s a wonderful fellow with tremendous integrity who has shown such a professional commitment to a research project for a long time.

First report a landmark in Balance Mat history

Dr Isaac Selva Raj was important to me because he was one of the first scientific researchers to take an interest in the Balance Mat. I’m not medical; I’m not allied health; I’m not a researcher or a scientist. I didn’t have any other devices to test the Balance Mat against. I didn’t know if it worked or not.

What Isaac did was seminal to the development of the Balance Mat. He prepared an early report after testing over a few days that said there were early indications of a correlation between the results of the Balance Mat and the results of the Kistler force plate he was using at the time to measure postural sway.

Despite the limitation of the output from the mat then (we didn’t have any of the measurements for sway variance, mean sway distance, sway range, sway velocity and sway path that we do today) – that early report was extremely exciting. Until then I’d had no guarantee that what I’d developed would even work, let alone be reliable.

To make it reliable I basically made many different mats with many different configurations over time because in those early days if the same person stood on the prototype mat more than once the output would be different each time. It meant that I had to undertake years of rigorous testing to find out which designs and layouts provided consistent results, using different fibre arrangements and manufacturing methods. I was trying to work out what worked.

Dr Isaac Selva Raj tested a prototype Balance Mat in 2019. Although the system needed a lot of development back then, he gave me the confidence I needed to keep going.
Dr-Isaac-Selva-Raj-with-Balance-Mat-prototype-at-RMIT-University-Sep-2019

What Isaac did – without even really knowing it I suspect – was he gave me the confidence I needed to keep going, because he said there was some general evidence that the technology was working generally. In the intervening years, after many, many changes to the system and a calibration robot project led by University of Canberra’s Associate Professor Damith Herath, I was able to build a valid and reliable test-retest postural sway assessment system (see my blog article about the robot – that is a whole other innovation story).

Latest report another landmark

Fast-forward to 9 July 2023 and the report that Dr Selva Raj has just produced is momentous in Balance Mat history.

In it, he describes a small study he recently conducted at Edith Cowan University. It involved 17 participants from 18 to 67 years who were in good health. These participants had their postural sway assessed on the Balance Mat and an established postural sway assessment tool – the AMTI AccuSway force platform – simultaneously. The study also assessed the test-retest reliability of the Balance Mat. They were asked to perform a series of nine 20-second balance tests in various stances, mostly with their eyes open.

In 2023 Dr Raj tested the TGA-approved model of the Multimetric Balance Mat and found that it is a valid and reliable postural sway assessment tool that can be recommended for clinical and health settings.
Dr Isaac Raj uses the TGA-approved Multimetric Balance Mat in 2023 to measure postural sway

The report goes on to explain what is not always so obvious to everyone who asks me why anybody would want to test people’s balance: that postural stability – or “balance” – is important for daily living and particularly for falls prevention and sports performance.

“Therefore,” he says, “reliable and accurate postural sway assessment tools are important for monitoring the postural stability of individuals in the health and athletic context so that timely interventions can be implemented to improve postural stability when necessary.”

And this is the part that I was thrilled to read: Isaac stated that his analysis of the results demonstrated “strong to very strong positive correlations between data from the Balance Mat and the force platform” and “very strong positive correlations between the Balance Mat postural sway data from the two test-retest trials.”

The analysis comes after a lot of technical information that I don’t really understand – I’m not a statistician either – only a humble project manager of some quite brilliant electronics engineers and programmers – Dean Vey, Abishek Shrestha and Binod Shrestha. Thankfully they understand all that technical material, like how the sway data from the Balance Mat and the centre of pressure (COP) data from the force platform were compared and how the Spearman’s rank-order correlation coefficient and the Bonferroni correction settings were applied.

Isaac’s report concludes: “This study has shown that the Balance Mat is a valid tool for assessing postural sway and has good test-retest reliability. Since the Balance Mat offers advantages over traditional postural sway assessment tools due to its portability, cost-effectiveness and ease of use, it can be recommended for clinical and health settings.”

Keeping athletes at their peak

All sportspeople want to be at their peak. Every incremental gain is important to them, so if they’re finding that their balance is changing from a particular exercise regime it’s handy to know because they can improve their strength and balance and general sports ability and also measure changes and improvements in balance through different exercise regimes.

Going forward, I imagine that sports facilities, sports clubs and sports exercise physiologists and physiotherapists everywhere will all be using the Balance Mat. For the practitioners involved it’s all about keeping the athletes at their peak.

More information

For a copy of the report you can call Isaac on 0407 310 135 or email i.selvaraj@ecu.edu.au

Alternatively, you are invited to liaise with Isaac in the Balance Testing community of practice on LinkedIn where he has posted a brief summary with a view to stimulating discussion.

READ ALL MY BLOG POSTS:

  • The Neurometric Balance Mat is measuring the balance ability of elderly Singaporeans at the Singapore Eye Research Institute (SERI). Pictured is Mr Leow Zhun Hong (study senior clinical research coordinator).

Research into balance and sensory health

08/03/2024|0 Comments

A team of leading ophthalmology researchers who have been using the Neurometric Balance Mat in Singapore for the past nine months have provided me with this brief research update. Known as the PopulatION HEalth and Age-Related ...