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Baseball Biomechanics

The 21st century is here, where technology and science meet baseball. For years motion capture has been around for video games and the elite golfer and major league baseball players. Here a sports motion is recorded with sensors and a 3-D computer generated motion is created. This motion can pick up on flaws in the human body, which if corrected then can prevent injury and better a pitcher or hitter.

Injury prevention is crucial to a young athlete’s development. Doctors nationwide are reporting a growing number of young pitchers with serious arm injuries. Most injuries are coming from inefficiencies in pitching, muscle imbalances in the body from lack of exercise, and over use which the body cannot handle. One tool elite athlete’s use is to have athletic trainers, physical therapists and team physicians evaluate who then recommend for a 3-d motion capture analysis. That term is used way too loosely in the baseball and golf industry. Many think you take a camera record the motion and the view. Analyze and compare to a major league player. Things have changed!!

When the term biomechanics are most used it is synonymous with a coach videotaping a player from one view and comparing it against a major league ball player. That is good to give a baseline, but that’s where it stops. First videotaping from one view it can be deceptive, second if you are comparing the motion to a MLB player that is doing injustice. MLB players have the strength, flexibility and balance to have their bodies in the right position to be a more efficient pitcher or hitter. There is a different between efficiency and style. Not really new in the baseball industry, it has only been offered to the elite players at specific labs or university’s around the country where either sensors or reflective markers are placed on the body. Now New Jersey has the technology that is slowly being introduced and is now portable and a lot more user friendly. Athletic Precision is a consulting company in New Jersey that uses 3-d motion technology and specializes in biomechanics in baseball, softball and golf.

HOW IT WORKS:

Athletic Precision places electromagnetic sensors on the body and the athlete goes through their appropriate sports motion. This is compared to what is considered the perfect pitch or swing. A report is created for that particular motion which includes proper body positions at different stages of that motion. For example one thing that is looked in a report at is hand, bat or club velocity in 3 different directions during impact or release. From here if there is a discrepancy it will correlate to potential problems such as elbow or shoulder injuries in a pitcher. These flaws will stand out based on the athlete’s inability to either be not strong enough, or inflexible to have the body in the correct position. With that information it can be corrected with exercise and instruction combined.

WHATS OUT THERE:

The technology has been a staple at AMSI (American Sports Medicine Institute) with Dr. James Andrews and Chief Biomechanist Glen Fleisig where professional athletes for years would fly down to Birmingham Alabama and would go to the laboratory and spend two days being analyzed about any flaws and inefficiencies that the body would take on any unneeded stresses. The biomechanical flaws can be fixed by exercise, instruction, and technique. A baseline is given and with a re evaluation done later in the season or year to follow up that what is being done to correct any flaws are actually working. The technology is a little different from what Athletic Precision has in regards that instead of electromagnetic sensors ASMI uses reflective ping pong markers. What Athletic Precision has is a slightly different version which has some advantages and disadvantages compared to the Vicon and Eagle system used at ASMI which is considered to some the gold standard. If you can get approx 95% of the same information at half the price, it might be something to look into. Listed below is a comparison between 2 motion analysis systems Electromagnetic Sensors (Athletic Precision) and LED (Vicon or Eagle) systems:

Comparisons Electromagnetic LED Vicon/Eagle System
Frames per sec 300 f/s Range 240 to 3000 f/s
Measure Body Measurements/ Velocities Yes Yes
Set up 5-10 minutes 45 minutes
Portable Yes (inside/outside) No, fixed at lab
Report Yes Yes
Recorded Motion on CD Yes Yes
Sensors Yes with wire Reflective balls no wire
Biofeedback Yes No
Exercise Program Yes No
Drawing Capabilities on screen No Yes
Comparison to the “perfect motion” Yes Yes
Purchase Cost of Technology $20,000 $350,000 to $500,000
Price for Service $125 - $250 $500 - $3000 (not including accommodations)

So is this the future of coaching? It could be as we progress in this 21st society striving to build a better athletes, technology like this not only helps coaches, athletic trainers, strength coaches, but also it helps the well being of the athlete and gives them longevity and a safe and healthy career. The toughest challenge is understanding how the technology can help. Lots of coaches out there are afraid of the unknown. There first response is “my eyes are just as good as any camera or machine you have”. That is interesting because according to the human body they eyes can only see 20 frames per second and only register when the body moves more than 15-20 degrees of motion. Working with a Sportsbiomechanist is a new concept and one (the coaches) need to look at it as their own private radiologist providing them with a sort of MRI of sport motion. Think of it as, the coaches are considered the surgeons where it is now their responsibility to fix the problem from the readings and reports from the sportsbiomechanist. Colleges such as Seton Hall University have started benefitting from this technology. Pitching Coach Phil Cundari has Frank from Athletic Precision come up a couple of times during the year to get a more in-depth reading of his pitchers. “Some of the stuff Frank mentions I am aware of, but he takes it to another level and also picks up things I might not see in regards to the body”, “it also is great when my pitchers hear it from another source and he breaks it down to where some of the problems can be fixed through exercise”

With the way sports and especially baseball being competitive now, having this technology, which sooner or later was going to become more accessible to the public, is now that extra advantage in improving ones game.

It is apparent that 3D motion analysis is superior to any other technology in use right now. Now this ground-breaking technology is available to the typical athlete and not just the select professional. This motion analysis allows such a precise breakdown of movements allowing trainers to personalize the athlete’s workout program or a coach specifically instruct the details of the swing or pitch. With these personalized workouts in addition to proper instruction the athlete can target and correct any motion that is not being performed in the most efficient manner. Most importantly you are also decreasing the probability of injury. As sports become more and more competitive this “extra” edge of 3D motion analysis can make the difference between an average athlete and an elite athlete.

For more information about this technology you can contact Athletic Precision via the website, www.athleticprecision.com or .

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