Copyright ©The Author(s) 2021. Published by Baishideng Publishing Group Inc. All rights reserved.
World J Orthop. Jun 18, 2021; 12(6): 360-375
Published online Jun 18, 2021. doi: 10.5312/wjo.v12.i6.360
Slacklining: A narrative review on the origins, neuromechanical models and therapeutic use
Charles Philip Gabel, Bernard Guy, Hamid Reza Mokhtarinia, Markus Melloh
Charles Philip Gabel, Research Section, Access Physiotherapy, Coolum Beach 4573, Australia
Bernard Guy, Ecole des Mines de Saint-Etienne, Saint Etienne 4200, Loire, France
Hamid Reza Mokhtarinia, Department of Ergonomics and Physiotherapy, University of Social Welfare and Rehabilitation Sciences, Tehran 12345, Iran
Markus Melloh, School of Health Professions, Institute of Health Sciences, Zurich University of Applied Sciences, Winterthur 8410, Switzerland
Markus Melloh, School of Medicine, The University of Western Australia, Perth WA 6009, Australia
Markus Melloh, Curtin Medical School, Curtin University, Bentley WA 6102, Australia
Author contributions: Gabel CP proposed the concept and outline; Melloh M provided critical input for the manuscript content with specific relevance to physiology, biopsychosocial health, clinical guidelines and current medical models, references and editing of the manuscript; Mokhtarinia HR provided critical input for the manuscript content with specific relevance to therapeutic and rehabilitation aspects, physiology, references and editing of the manuscript; Guy B provided specific vital input regarding the aspects of time and fundamental physics as well as referencing and editing of the manuscript; all authors contributed to writing the manuscript.
Conflict-of-interest statement: No author has a conflict of interest for this study.
Open-Access: This article is an open-access article that was selected by an in-house editor and fully peer-reviewed by external reviewers. It is distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See:
Corresponding author: Charles Philip Gabel, BPhty, MSc, PhD, Physiotherapist, Research Scientist, Research Section, Access Physiotherapy, 12 Grandview DR, Coolum Beach 4573, Australia.
Received: December 4, 2020
Peer-review started: December 4, 2020
First decision: January 24, 2021
Revised: January 27, 2021
Accepted: May 19, 2021
Article in press: May 19, 2021
Published online: June 18, 2021

Slacklining, the neuromechanical action of balance retention on a tightened band, is achieved through self-learned strategies combining dynamic stability with optimal energy expenditure. Published slacklining literature is recent and limited, including for neuromechanical control strategy models. This paper explores slacklining’s definitions and origins to provide background that facilitates understanding its evolution and progressive incorporation into both prehabilitation and rehabilitation. Existing explanatory slacklining models are considered, their application to balance and stability, and knowledge-gaps highlighted. Current slacklining models predominantly derive from human quiet-standing and frontal plane movement on stable surfaces. These provide a multi-tiered context of the unique and complex neuro-motoric requirements for slacklining’s multiple applications, but are not sufficiently comprehensive. This consequently leaves an incomplete understanding of how slacklining is achieved, in relation to multi-directional instability and complex multi-dimensional human movement and behavior. This paper highlights the knowledge-gaps and sets a foundation for the required explanatory control mechanisms that evolve and expand a more detailed model of multi-dimensional slacklining and human functional movement. Such a model facilitates a more complete understanding of existing performance and rehabilitation applications that opens the potential for future applications into broader areas of movement in diverse fields including prostheses, automation and machine-learning related to movement phenotypes.

Keywords: Slacklining, Neuromechanics, Human movement, Model, Balance, Rehabilitation

Core Tip: Slacklining is an ancient activity; however, modern scientific literature is very recent and limited. This paper explores slacklining’s origins to provide background on its evolution and incorporation into prehabilitation and rehabilitation. Existing mechanical models and neurophysiological explanations are considered, summarised, and their applications and knowledge-gaps highlighted. Consequently, the need for improved understanding and descriptive and mathematical models are highlighted to ensure a multi-tiered understanding of slacklining’s unique and complex neuro-motoric requirements for its multiple applications, including human functional movement. With understanding slacklining’s history and fundamentals comes the potential for future broader applications for functional movement, prosthesis, automation, and machine-learning.