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Gym Floor Dead Spots – In Depth Discussion


Hello, this is Paul Nelson with Western Sport Floors, Wyoming Wood Floors, coming to you today from Clinton, Montana. Today, we have a fantastic discussion about dead spots in gymnasium floors. Probably nothing bothers athletic directors, coaches, and players more than dead spots in gymnasium floors. So, we are going to bring in the country’s leading expert on sports surfaces, Paul Elliott, PhD, PE. President ASET Services. Dr. Elliot is going to talk about dead spots in gymnasium floors. Here we go.

Alright, so I have with me Paul Elliott, PhD, PE. President ASET Services. Dr. Elliot, can you tell us just a little bit about who you are and what you do for our industry?

I’m Paul Elliot. I’m from ASET Services. We provide third-party testing services. We test products in the lab and in the field, including hardwood floors, running tracks, playgrounds, basketball courts, to ensure that products comply with relevant standards. We’re going to talk about dead spots in a gymnasium floor, specifically where the primary use of this facility is basketball. So, in dribbling a basketball, you have a dead spot. You wrote a white paper on this issue. Just thinking about it, I find this paper absolutely genius. You listed three separate inputs to the athlete, and can you go through them briefly?

What we found was when we did a ball rebound test, our results didn’t necessarily agree with what people thought were dead spots. As you walk on the floor, as you pay attention to what’s going on at each point, a user has three inputs that they perceive. One is rebound height, two is the sound that the floor makes during the impact, and three is the vibrations that you feel coming up from the floor. My personal theory is that most people don’t think about these three inputs. They take those three inputs, and their brain says the rebound height is low, when it may be the sound is different, or the vibration is different, and the rebound height really isn’t that much different.

So, you do testing on gymnasium floors, correct? And you’ve certainly had folks who have been unhappy with their floor or thought they had dead spots. Can you walk through what happens when somebody calls you to test a floor that has dead spots?

The first thing that we’re going to do is explain to them that not all tests and metrics can measure dead spots, and finding dead spots is relatively uncommon. So, there’s a decent chance we’ll come back and say there aren’t dead spots. That way, we haven’t taken someone’s money on false hopes that we’re going to find them. Once we go to a job site, we will ask the facility to mark spots, which is our preference, or we will do it ourselves. Essentially, we’re going to ask them to locate five to ten spots they consider ideal and all the dead spots. Then, we test spots they think have high rebound against spots they think have low rebound, and we look at the difference.

When you head out, you set up your equipment. What has been your experience in testing dozens of floors that ostensibly had dead spots?

In half to two-thirds of cases, we don’t find rebound heights that support the claim of dead spots. In our standard, we define a difference in rebound from the highest to the lowest spot of seven to nine percent difference. Those spots we classify as marginal. Out of those, 95% of those spots are going to be marginal again. We define any point that has more than a 10% lower rebound than the best spots on the floor as significantly dead. Those are extremely rare, occurring probably in 2% of the points we test.

By significant dead spot, this is something that could truly impact the playability of that surface. Yes. So, it’s really the significant dead spots that you’re recommending to the customers that they attempt to make some repairs on. There are some cosmetic issues and some structural issues that can arise from the various repairs.

Can you talk just briefly about what you would consider a repair for dead spots?

I’ve personally seen two solutions used. The first one works best on an older floor or a new floor that’s harder by design, or an old floor that’s 20 or 30 years old where you don’t really know what the performance is. It’s probably the most common. That’s where you drill holes and inject foam like you would around a window or door jamb, that expands and fills up the void, making the floor nice and hard. No longer has dead spots, but you have created a non-uniformity in the floor by doing that.

The second solution we’ve seen used is re-anchoring or spot anchoring in isolated locations of a floating floor for what we call a bio-resilient floor. This is a lot more work, it’s more expensive, and it’s harder to hide.

And frankly, the third

solution that we’ve seen that makes everybody happy has nothing to do with dead spots. The contractor says, “I will screen and recoat your floor next year.” They feel like they got something out of it, but what you’ve done with your white paper, and the reason that I wanted to have this visit with you, is that you did an exceptional job of explaining those sensory inputs to the athlete. Let’s understand that there definitely are floors where there are different sounds in different areas, and there are floors that have a different vibrational feel coming into your feet from area to area. But neither one of those necessarily correlates with rebound height. Is that a fair statement?

Yeah, that white paper was built off of one case study I went to the field years ago with about 40 spots. The client said all of these spots are dead spots. We looked at rebound, and it was a 50/50 toss-up as to whether the low rebound heights were dead spots or not. We looked at acoustical sound differences, which weren’t scientifically measured by the way but were what we could do at the time, and we had closer to a 70 to 75% agreement. The one sound difference, which really sounded more like a bass note, was what people thought were dead spots, about 75% of the time.

And I thought it was interesting just to make sure that I heard you correctly, but maybe as low as 2% of what athletes are thinking are dead spots are actually what you’re able to measure and classify as a dead spot. Is that accurate?

I would say as a severe dead spot, yes. Like the severe dead spots that are 10% or more, that’s pretty rare. That takes a problem with a floor, either it probably wasn’t installed well, or it was damaged during construction, someone rolled something on it they shouldn’t have, but they’re very few. A 10% difference is an enormous difference on a gym on a hardwood floor.

Alright. Well, as always, Dr. Elliot, I appreciate you bringing some light to this issue. Any final thoughts you have for anybody that’s frustrated with their floor related to dead spots?

If you think you have dead spot problems on your floor, the number one thing to do that I tell people is to look at your specification. If your floor is what I call a generic floor, many of those don’t say anything about performance in the specification. So, if you don’t have something that outlines the performance of this system, there’s really nothing to enforce that dead spots are repaired if we find them, or to ensure they won’t happen. And it really comes down to whether the contractor is going to work with you out of the goodness of their heart or to save their reputation, because without it being in the spec, you really don’t have very much leverage.

Could you share an easy way that an owner or facility manager could do a little testing on their own?

The honest reality is this: talking about the math, you’re talking about a rebound height that’s roughly one meter. Each percent difference in rebound is only about a half or a quarter inch. It’s really hard to eyeball that. The number one thing I would tell an owner is to go through and check your ball pressure because the more pressure you have in the ball, the greater the difference will be. The dead spots will be dead, and the live spots will be livelier. So, if you have a coach or players that keep putting air in the ball, and all of a sudden you’re running basketballs at 10, 11, 12 psi instead of seven or eight, you’ll exacerbate the problem.

So, keep your ball pressures within the tolerance of the ball. That’ll help to minimize actual dead spots. If you get dead spot calls, we’ll take the time, we’ll explain to you, we’ll let you know 100% what we found, and then you can decide on your own whether you think it’s worth having a field test. We make sure everybody knows what the outcome is and what our limitations are before we go do a test.

Awesome, Dr. Elliot. I appreciate you joining me today and shedding some light on this issue for us all.

Well, thank you very much, I appreciate it. Thanks for your time and what you’re doing for the industry.

Well, have a good day.

Thank you very much for watching. I know that video was a little bit long and it was quite technical. One of the challenges with making a technical video is that it’s not quite as entertaining as what we’d normally like our videos to be, but it’s good information.

One of the things that we didn’t cover well enough, that I’ll cover right here, is the technological advances in gymnasium floors. I’ve got a couple of floors here from Robbins Sports Surfaces. There’s the Bio-Channel Star, which has a concrete base, a foam layer, a layer of plywood, and

then a hardwood surface. This engineering marvel ensures that athletes are playing on a surface that provides optimal safety and performance metrics. The Bio-Channel Star offers an excellent balance between shock absorption and energy return, making it an ideal choice for multi-purpose gymnasiums that host a variety of sports and events.

Another impressive offering from Robbins is the MVP system, which stands for “Multi-Variable Play.” This floor actually adjusts to the weight and impact level of different athletes. So whether it’s a child playing in a community league or a professional athlete, the floor provides a uniform experience. This is crucial because different athletes have different needs when it comes to floor performance, and a one-size-fits-all approach often falls short in providing the ideal conditions for play.

These advances represent more than just incremental improvements; they are leaps and bounds ahead of what was available just a decade ago. However, adopting these systems requires a significant investment, both financially and in terms of installation time. It’s imperative to weigh these costs against the long-term benefits—improved player performance, lower injury rates, and increased lifespan of the floor itself.

But back to the point of dead spots and athlete perception. It’s important for facility managers and owners to understand the psychology of the athlete when it comes to gym floor performance. Often, what players perceive as “dead spots” are more influenced by sound and feel than by measurable performance metrics. As Dr. Elliot mentioned, sometimes even inflating the ball to the proper psi can alter the perception of dead spots. This isn’t to undermine the athlete’s experience but to add a layer of complexity to the discussion around gymnasium floors.

In summary, if you’re dealing with complaints about dead spots, it’s worthwhile to do some investigation. Look into your floor specifications, and consider whether performance metrics are even outlined. Understand that the athlete’s perception may not always align with data but is still a crucial part of the equation. And finally, consider embracing newer technologies in gym flooring to optimize for both performance and safety.

Thank you for taking the time to delve into this topic with us. While it may be a technical issue, understanding the nuances can make a significant difference for athletes, coaches, and facility owners alike.

With that, we wrap up another insightful discussion on gymnasium floors. Special thanks to Dr. Elliot for his valuable input. Here’s to better, safer, and more reliable gymnasium experiences for athletes at all levels.

As we bid farewell to this topic, we must remember that the quest for the perfect gymnasium floor is ongoing. Research continues to evolve, and manufacturers are tirelessly working on new technologies to eliminate inconsistencies like dead spots altogether. To stay at the forefront of this evolution, make sure you stay informed and consult experts like Dr. Elliot for their invaluable insights.

Just as athletes continually strive to improve their game, we should strive to improve the surfaces they play on. Dead spots should not be an accepted norm but rather a problem to be solved. It’s a challenge that we should all be eager to tackle, as the benefits ripple out far beyond just those who set foot on the court.

In this journey toward perfection, your voice and experiences are invaluable. We encourage feedback and participation from athletes, coaches, and facility managers in the ongoing conversation about how we can make gym floors as efficient, safe, and responsive as possible.

And so, as you step onto your next gymnasium floor, may it be a surface worthy of your skill and commitment to the game. Here’s to the elimination of dead spots and to a future where every bounce, every step, and every play is just as reliable as the athletes who make them.

Thank you for joining us in this deep dive into the world of gymnasium flooring. Your engagement elevates the conversation and brings us one step closer to a solution.

That concludes our discussion. We hope you found it enlightening and beneficial to your understanding of this complex but crucial aspect of athletic performance. Until next time, play safe and play hard.