State Of The Art Imaging Technology Improves Athletes’ Performance

High-tech 3-D avatar imaging technology allows doctors to closely analyze athletes' physical performance.

Massachusetts General Hospital Sports Performance Center images provided

Massachusetts General Hospital Sports Performance Center images provided

Massachusetts General Hospital’s (MGH) Sports Performance Center offers has really cool 3-D imaging technology that can track movements and the source of sports injuries in athletes so that doctors can develop individualized training programs to get players back in the game.

The 3-D biomechanical imaging technology tracks a patient’s movements on a computer. Similar technology is used in Hollywood to create computer generated characters from human actors’ movements, like Smaug in The Hobbit, and the characters in Avatar. Tiny reflective markers are placed on a patient’s body and twenty motion capture cameras record the markers’ signals as the patient moves. Then, a 3-D moving avatar (which is a compilation of all of the markers together) of the patient’s movement is displayed on a screen.

Images provided

Images provided.

Doctors can then study this avatar and pinpoint where the injury occurred or where a future one can occur. Patients can then alter their movements, such as a baseball pitch or a golf swing, in order to be safer. Doctors at the Sports Performance Center say that this method could potentially fix a pitcher’s elbow and prevent injury in future games. The process is designed to be repeated over time to compare the base analysis to future changes and improvements in physical performance and track the healing process.

Pitcher avatar image provided

Pitcher avatar image provided.

In addition to rehabilitating injured baseball players and golfers, the Sports Performance Center uses this 3-D avatar technology to examine runners. The avatars look at runners’ foot mechanics, lower extremity strength, and joint positions. This information can provide runners with helpful tips on how to alter their form for the most optimized and safe performance.

The Sports Performance Center at MGH also provides specialized performance training to help heal injuries and improve overall performance for all athletes. Cardiac specialists are also on hand at the Sports Performance Center to do detailed evaluations of athletes’ heart health in order to provide a well-rounded physical evaluation.