GOOD COP, BAD COP


The science of the study of human balance is well established. Studies of balance use two key metrics; COM (Centre of Mass) and COP (Centre of Pressure). The following text is excerpted from Human balance and posture control during standing and walking – D A Winter PhD, P. Eng. – Gait & Posture: 1995; Vol 3: 193-214, December. (1)

Centre of Pressure (COP) is the point location of the vertical ground reaction force vector. It presents a weighted average of all pressures over the surface of the foot that is in contact with the ground. It is totally independent of COM. If one foot is on the ground, the net COP lies within that foot. If both feet are in contact with the ground, net COP lies somewhere between the two feet depending on the relative weight taken by each foot.

The location of COP under each foot is a direct reflection of the neural control of the ankle muscles (my emphasis added).

Increasing plantarflexion activity moves COP posteriorly (ergo, toward the back of the foot). Increasing inverter activity moves COP laterally (ergo, towards the outside of the foot). COP is often mistakenly equated with COG (Centre of Gravity). COP is calculated with software from pressure data obtained from a force plate or in-shoe pressure insole. (my emphasis added)

Because it is calculated COP can reside in the arch of the foot even though it may not be in contact with the ground.  – my comment

“Centre of Mass (COM) is a point equivalent of the total body mass in the global reference system (GRS). It is the weighted average of the COM of each body segment in 3-dimensional space. It is a passive variable controlled by the balance control system. The vertical projection of COM onto the ground is often called the Centre of Gravity (COG).

“Balance is a generic term describing the dynamics of body posture to prevent falling. It is related to the inertial forces acting on the body and the inertial characteristics of body segments.  The CNS is totally aware of the problems of controlling a multisegment system and interlimb coupling that can facilitate balance control.

“In the literature there is a major misuse of the COP when it is referred to as ‘sway’, thereby inferring that it is the same as the COG. Unfortunately some researchers even refer to the COP directly as the COG.”

In the mechanism of balance control, COP is the equivalent of the Balance Police. It keeps COM from breaching the limits of there base of support by outpacing COM in the race to the limits of the base of support within the foot or feet. In quiet standing, the force of gravity disturbs equilibrium by pulling COM forward. This causes the ankle to dorsiflex. As COM moves forward, it starts to overtake COP. In order to prevent a forward fall, the CNS signals muscles that plantarflex the ankle to increase their contraction. This increases the force of COP and pushes COM rearward. As COP shifts rearward, the CNS reduces the contractive force of plantarflexion so that COP passes COM in the race to the rear of the foot.

A similar process is employed by the CNS to prevent a sideways fall. Here, the force of gravity disturbs equilibrium towards inner or medial aspect of the foot. This causes the foot to pronate. To oppose the disturbing force, the CNS signals muscles to contract that invert the foot.

It is important to recognize that it is the external forces that disturb equilibrium  that cause the foot to pronate.

The same process is at play in skiing. However, since the sideways balance strategy involves inverter muscles, it is only possible to establish a balance platform (DOT 4: PLATFORM) on the outside foot of a turn and only then under specific conditions. In the skier/ski equipment system, COP is the point where the Resultant Force acting on a skier at ski flat that pulls COM downward towards the snow is opposed by muscles that the CNS recruits to oppose the pending collapse of the skeletal system and prevent a fall.

COP is calculated from pressure data obtained from a force plate or in-shoe pressure insole such as  the Novel Pedar system or Tekscan. Since COP reflects neural control of ankle muscles when a foot (the whole foot) is in contact with the ground or a stable source of (ground) reaction force, the use of the term COP is not technically correct in a situation where a ski is on edge unless a platform exists as described in DOT 4: PLATFORM. Until the ski lies flat on the snow between edge changes and there is full foot contact ground reaction force the appropriate term to describe the force applied by the foot to snow through the stack of ski equipment is centre of force or COF.

In a turn, COP is a good COP when it is on the right side of the law: ergo, when COP lies under the head of the 1st metatarsal and R is aligned between the inside edge underfoot and the limits of sidecut. The sketches below show the progression of COF at ski flat that moves COP to the head of the 1st metatarsal. If COP arrives at the head of the 1st metatarsal before the outside ski has attained a significant edge angle and COP remains in this position through the turn COP is a good COP.

Sketch 1 below shows the 2 key mechanical points in skiing (red cross)

Centres of key pts

Sketch 2 below shows the Centre of Force (COF) under the heel of the inside foot at the start of the transition between turns. The red dashed line shows the approximate trajectory of COF as it moves forward and becomes COP at ski (foot) flat between turns as the external forces cause the foot to pronate.

 

COP 1

Sketch 3 below shows the forward progression of COP towards the head of the 1st metatarsal.

COP 2

Sketch 4 below shows the successful transition of COP to the head of the 1st metatarsal where it lies over top of the inside edge of a ski of appropriate width.

COP 3

 

Sketch 5 below shows axis on which COP and R must align in order to engage the external force R to drive edging and turning mechanics.

COP 4

Sketch 6 below shows R on the same axis as COP.  In this configuration the alignment of R described under DOT 4: PLATFORM will enable multiplane torques generated by pronation to be directed into the turn.

COP 5

In sketch 7 below COP has failed to make a transition to the head of the 1st metatarsal. When COP fails to make the transition to the head of the 1st metatarsal at ski flat between edge change before the new outside ski attains a significant edge angle, a moment arm will be setup between the inside edge and COP that will create an inversion moment of force or torque with an associated external vertical axial rotation of the whole leg.

COP 6

 

In sketch 8 below COP has reversed direction. Once an inversion moment arm has been set up on the outside ski there is no way to undo it. The odds are great that COP will revert to its default position under the heel because it is under the mechanical line of the lower limb.

COP 7

When this happens COP becomes a bad COP.


1. You can obtain a copy of David Winter’s paper at the following link: