Backhand outfrisbees forehand

By Nader Ihmoud

Ultimate Frisbee defenders should force opponents into forehand throws, according to “Throwing Techniques for Ultimate Frisbee,” a study published in Volume 15 of The Sports Journal.

Evan Winograd, a mechanical engineering student at Washington University in St. Louis, conducted the study to find out if any Ultimate Frisbee techniques were more advantageous than others.

“There had been research done on pretty much every other sport, but Frisbee was lacking,” Winograd said.

Ultimate Frisbee is a sport dominated by two techniques that Winograd tested: forehand and backhand throws. He rounded up five “elite” and 11 “non-elite” Frisbee players through an open invitation. According to Winograd, the only difference between the two groups was that the throws from elite players had more velocity.

With the help of Jack Engsberg, a professor of occupational therapy and neurosurgery at Wash U, Winograd used motion analysis to collect his data. Using six high-speed Eagle Digital Cameras, he tested the throws for precision, accuracy and linear and angular velocity. Three cameras were placed above and behind the thrower, who stood 2.5 meters away from the target. Sensors were strategically placed on the Frisbee so the cameras could pick up its spin and velocity.

According to Winograd, the elimination of wind helped the study, but the lack of space kept the throws from being fully developed. He said for most throws, especially the fast ones, only two revolutions were picked up by the cameras.

“The discs were moving so quickly, the cameras had trouble picking up all the data points,” Winograd said.

His tests showed that the backhand grip was the superior technique because it resulted in less wobble and more spin. Throws with more spin have a lower instability rate. The forehand throw did not perform better than the backhand in any category tested.

Winograd, who won a gold medal in 2008 while playing on the United States Junior Open team at the World Ultimate and Guts Championship, said he was surprised the speeds of the backhand and forehand throws were similar.

“My backhand throw has been stronger than my forehand,” he said. “I was pretty surprised when I found out that the forehands come out just as fast as

backhand throws.”

Despite his findings, Winograd’s advice for incoming Frisbee players is to go with whichever technique is comfortable for them, but added the game will cause players to change their technique depending on how they are being defended.