Avatars help athletes improve performance, avoid pain

November 16, 2013

Jake Murray, 19, has always dreamed of playing in the big leagues, but elbow pain threw him a curveball.

Now, 3-D biomechanical imaging is helping Murray develop a specialized training program that will help him pitch without pain.

"It gives us an ability to look at forces and torques and position of the body," said Donna Moxley Scarborough, clinical and research director of the Massachusetts General Orthopedics Sports Performance Center.

Each set of reflective markers placed on Murray creates accurate measures of speed and force across the joints of the body.

Twenty motion-capture cameras track the position of each marker, creating a 3-D avatar. The 3-D avatar is synchronized with two high-speed video cameras to provide an ultimate view of the athlete.

The 3-D imaging lines up the real-time action from all angles at the same time.

"We noticed that he had some limitations in muscle length and some strength issues," Scarborough said.

Murray has changed some of his pitching mechanics, as well as his workout program. Now, he's back in the game and ready to compete at the next level.

This new development can potentially fix a pitcher's elbow. Doctors hope that slightly altering the way an athlete throws a ball can prevent future injuries from happening. Researchers say this new technology can also help golfers improve their game and protect their joints.

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