New technology helps injured athletes

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg
November 3, 2008 3:33:46 PM PST
The equipment that helps action heroes jump from tall buildings and dodge disaster in your favorite movies is now used to help athletes. The high-tech system shows players how to make subtle adjustments to their technique -- keeping them off the bench and on the field.

Working out is now more specialized for baseball player Jimmy Gerlach. Surgery from an injury left him out of the game for months.

"I went back to throw another pitch and my arm just started ripping from when I started my motion, and then I couldn't stop it, and from there it just tore all the way through," Gerlach said.

To prevent Gerlach from suffering another injury, researchers at a bio-mechanical lab put reflectors on his body to track his every move. When he pitches, high speed cameras work with three-d tracking computers to pick up subtle motions the human eye can't see.

"When we record it, we can watch it really slowly, examine little parts again and again," said Ajit Chaudhari, director of Biomechanical Research at the Ohio State University Sports Medicine Center. "The pitching coach could just watch him throw, but it's hard to see everything. You don't have the right angle to see things necessarily. You can't slow it down, so we get all of that from this type of 3-d analysis."

They concentrate on Gerlach's elbow when he throws -- the lower it is, the more chance for injury.

"By actually increasing his arm slot and by looking at that mechanically here in the lab, we actually can make sure that the arm is staying high, taking stress out of the shoulder and elbow itself," physical therapist Chris McKenzie said.

Knowing what to change will help his arm and career last longer.

The technology can also help runners, soccer players and golfers. Besides athletes, researchers want to use this equipment to help patients with injuries function better.

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