3D Imagery Used to Improve Athletes’ Skills

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AKRON, Ohio - Using 3D imagery, similar to that in video games, physical therapists at Akron Children's Hospital are analyzing the movements of young athletes and comparing them to those of elite athletes.

Therapists and a sports-focused biomechanical engineer are finding ways to help improve the young athlete's performance in ways they may have never before imagined through the new technology.

Cameras first capture the athletes movements. The data is then entered into a computer, which can analyze it against the movements of the elite athletes.

The therapists can then recommend ways in which the athletes performance can be improved.

On Thursday, Corey Whaley, a pitcher at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, pitched for the cameras.

Whaley hopes someday to pitch for a division-1 college.

"I'd like to see my fast ball move faster, I'm sitting at high to mid-80s right now. I'd love to get that over the 90 mark," said Whaley.

After a first glance at his mechanics through the cameras, the therapists already had some initial recommendations.

"If he can get his hips stronger, he can move faster and if he can get his hips quicker through the motion, he can get his arm through the motion quicker and he can pitch faster," said Mindy Bragg.

The cameras are also being used to record athletes at the University of Akron.

Data from college soccer players and other athletes at the University is helping create the database of how elite athletes perform.

But the images are also telling coaches there how they can improve the performance of their players.

"I've already looked at some of the schematics that they have shown us in the slow motion and its amazing with some of the players that we have been able to see just on video that we have not even been able to see through training," said Women's Soccer Coach Vernon Croft.

Croft strongly believes in emphasizing the details, and knows that sometimes just making a very small adjustment can have a huge impact on an athlete's performance.

"With numbers you can kind of measure out where you are and even if it's just by a little bit, improve," said University of Akron Soccer Player Gillian Gross.

"One thing we are finding is that athletes at any level, be it a young kid through the college level, have sort of developed patterns of movement and sometimes they are not efficient and they can lead to injury or they can hamper the athletes performance," said Lori Ross, one of the therapists working with the program.

"And when we take their performance and compare it to an elite athlete we see differences and so we can give them specific exercises and drills that will help re-establish those patterns. We call it DNA of movement so to speak," said Ross.

Children's hospital is scheduling sessions by appointment. Appointments can be made by calling the hospital's Sports Rehabilitation Center.

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