AJ Brimson has returned from a back fracture in dynamic form and credits video sessions watching Usain Bolt and other elite sprinters with Titans physio Paul Scurfield for his increased speed and acceleration.
The 22-year-old fullback missed the first 11 rounds of the Telstra Premiership after an oedema in the spine progressed to a small crack and then a full fracture of the vertebrae.
In the seven games since his return Brimson has made nine line breaks and scored three tries with his speed off the mark burning opponents.
Studying the techniques of eight-time Olympic gold medallist Bolt and US sprinter Trayvon Bromell has worked a treat.
"I put my speed down to my rehab and the work I have done with our physio Paul Scurfield where he did a lot of work on acceleration and technique with me," Brimson told NRL.com.
"It wasn’t just about coming back. It was about coming back faster and better.
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"Paul would film me sprinting and compare it to the great sprinters that he used to watch. Then we’d work on it.
"Usain has those long strides and is always up tall. Bromell was known for his take-offs so we broke down the biomechanics of it all and then applied it."
Scurfield, who also holds a degree in exercise science and a masters in strength and conditioning, wanted to ensure Brimson’s back issue did not flare up again as well as making him a faster and more complete athlete
"So we identified that some of AJ's running mechanics potentially contributed to the injury and could also be tidied up from a performance point of view,” Scurfield told NRL.com
"We used those videos to demonstrate to AJ some of the principles in both acceleration and upright sprinting that we were trying to develop."
The technique of Bolt, who holds the world record in the 100m and 200m, was a good place to start.
"There is no-one like him on the planet and probably will never be but we were looking at Bolt's ability to carry a neutral pelvic position through his stride," Scurfield explained.
"Rugby league players, as their foot is about to hit the ground in front of them their pelvis is anteriorly tilted, and that potentially not only loads the hamstrings but also puts a relative increase of pressure through the lumbar spine which was AJ’s primary consideration.
"For AJ it is all about controlling pelvic position all the way through like Bolt, which is something he can still improve on."
Scurfield said the great sprinters appear to glide across the ground due to their control of the pelvis and trunk.
While he said Brimson had improved in that area he added that he "could still improve his upright sprinting speed so with his maximum speed I think he has another gear to go to".
Watch videos of Bromell and his feet seem in constant contact with the ground, which is no coincidence
"Although the turnover of the leg speed is a big factor in acceleration we humans, as opposed to jet engines, can't produce any force unless we push it through the ground," Scurfield said.
"So with AJ we were really looking to focus on that low foot recovery so it meant his foot was in contact with the ground for longer periods and produce longer force.
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"That allows you project your centre of mass horizontally which is what you are looking to achieve in acceleration.
"The reason Trayvon Bromell is such a good example is because his toe scrapes the ground as he is kicking off the start, and literally one of the cues we were using with AJ was to 'scrape the ground'.
"He would repeat a rep and say 'damn it, my foot was too high' and we'd take video of AJ performing that and say 'look, your foot recovery is too high, you've got to scrape the ground'."
Brimson had always been an incredibly explosive athlete but Scurfield said that since his return he had been able to “orientate his forces so he can project himself forward and his acceleration has been a huger factor”.
"It shows in his performances," Scurfield said.
"He is near impossible to mark one-on-one because if you show him the outside he will take it and you won’t catch him. If you show him the inside he has great footwork and he can beat you.
"He has done incredibly well to come back and put himself in line for State of Origin selection [for Queensland] and he has been one of the most exciting players across the NRL, so at the club we are all very excited for him."