by Celia Spell
As baseball’s all-time lead pitcher in wins, Cy Young played the sport professionally from 1890-1911 and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1937. Following his prolific and record-setting career in the major leagues, the Cy Young Award is now given to the best pitchers in the league annually and carries on the legacy of someone yet to be topped.
The Cy Youngs of baseball create kinetic energy with their body and transfer it to the ball, while hitters like Joe DiMaggio and Ty Cobb take their own kinetic energy and transfer it to the bat. Each stage of a pitch – from the windup to the throw to the follow-through – is designed to generate energy and transfer it to the ball, to increase the velocity at which the ball soars through the air.
There’s shoulder rotation, elbow flexion, weight transfer and hip movement, but once the ball is released, there’s also recovery and follow-through which protect against injury. Baseball players and athletes in general have always been chasing the balance between increasing power and avoiding injury, and today, many use modern technology to help assess weak points and strengths. These assessments can be applied to non-athletes as well and provide insight into overall health.
The MUSC Health and Wellness Institute opened in early 2022 with the aim to reach the local community through health, wellness and human performance, including local athletes such as baseball players but the general public as well. By using a markerless motion capture system called DARI Motion, the team at the Health and Wellness Institute can provide a personalized analysis of a patient’s daily movement with specific exercises designed to improve power and stability and prevent injury.
Pillars of the Health and Wellness Institute
Kaitlin Epperson, a relationship manager with the Institute, loves the breadth of offerings they provide. “We have so many exciting things under our one roof,” she said.
With an exercise component, nutrition component and mindfulness component, patients in the community looking to improve their overall wellness can speak to a registered dietitian or a health coach for an evidence-based and personalized program.
Through the Mindfulness Center, they can participate in yogic breathing services and develop relaxation and coping strategies for everyday stressors or to reduce chronic pain. Patients can also enroll in the Weight Management Center through the Institute.
“I think of it as a one-stop shop for wellness services in the community,” Epperson said.
Human motion markerless analysis
Athletic programs have often incorporated camera-based analysis systems to assess their athletes, but with DARI Motion, MUSC offers an opportunity for both athletes and the public to look at their own motion health.
The DARI Motion platform captures movements in real time and provides valuable data on joint mobility and stability. Credit: Brennan Wesley
As a markerless and wireless system, DARI Motion does not require the placement of markers across the body to follow movement and assess gait. Markers are more expensive than markerless programs, are often considered cumbersome, and can affect a patient’s natural gait, which can defeat the purpose of the analysis.
Michael Sole, ATC, CSCS, is a health and human performance manager at the Institute, and he guides patients through the analysis, walking them stepwise through functional activities like stepping, sitting and squatting while the eight cameras surrounding them catalogue the ease of motion in each joint and the stability during each movement. All of which takes only a few minutes.
Sole says it’s important for people to know how efficiently they move, whether they are performing activities of daily living or an athletic movement. “With that information,” he said, “we can look at your injury risk and your overall performance and prescribe targeted strengthening exercises.”
DARI Motion can calculate a patient’s “movement age” by comparing a patient’s performance, mobility, alignment, force and sway to those of others in the same age group and demographic who have been scanned by the system as well as with the use of an algorithm of data on normal range of movement for each joint in the body.
The DARI Motion system at MUSC is the only one available for public use in the state, and with this access individuals can choose whether they’re looking for a wellness package or a sports performance package. Both follow the same protocol but have different end goals. And as DARI Motion is the only FDA-approved markerless motion analysis system, Sole says it’s a good opportunity for patients of any age to become more stable.
He has worked with older patients looking to prevent falls or hip injuries as well as professional athletes looking to improve their strength or speed or just recover from injury. He has also had patients come to his program for prehabilitation where they are looking to improve their strength and stability prior to surgery in an effort to get better results. He points to hip replacements as a good example.
“The idea is to educate people more than anything,” he said. “We want to see them as much in person as possible in the beginning but then also give them the tools they need to continue on with their health and wellness after leaving here.”