Biometrics strike at the heart of Major League Baseball

8th April 2016
Posted By : Joe Bush
Biometrics strike at the heart of Major League Baseball

As part of the increasing level of integration of technology within real time sporting environments, Major League Baseball (MLB) in the US, has approved two wearable devices for use during this season’s games.

The two biometric devices will both be used to detect player habits earlier, thus aiding in the detection of potential injuries. The Motus Baseball Sleeve measures stress on elbows which can help pitchers detect the onset of injury and thus avoid ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) reconstruction, known commonly in the game as Tommy John surgery - a surgical graft procedure in which the ulnar collateral ligament in the medial elbow is replaced with a tendon from elsewhere in the body – a common procedure in baseball.

The device is worn inside a compression sleeve while pitchers throw, or attached to hitters’ batting gloves. The tracker collects and sends data - including ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) strain information for pitcher injury prevention, and hot and cold pitch zone stats for hitters - via Bluetooth to motusTHROW and motusBATTING iOS apps.

“One of the major goals of our single sensor system is to measure workload on the UCL, the Tommy John ligament, and that’s meant to be worn every day, the moment a player steps on the field till the moment they step off,” said Ben Hansen, Motus’s Chief Technology Officer.

He added: “What we’re seeing now is we have 18 months of what a major league baseball pitcher’s throwing regimen looks like, and it’s fascinating to see this data. We hope players continue to wear it and we see what their workloads are throughout a career and what workloads lead to injury. That’s our ultimate goal.”

Commenting on the sleeve, Andrew McCutchen, five-time MLB all-star centre field pitcher, said: “I’ve been working with Motus the past few years at its biomechanics lab to gain better insights on the mechanics of my swing. A mobile system capable of allowing me to collect this type of information in the cage and on the field is very exciting.”

The other device, the Zephyr Bioharness (pictured below), monitors heart and breathing rates which can identify stress levels and in-turn aid in the development of post-game recovery routines. The pro-grade wireless heart rate and physiological monitor is attached to a compression shirt underneath players’ uniforms or connected to a chest strap. It measures a number of biometrics, including heart rate, heart beat (R-R) intervals, breathing rate, posture, activity level, peak acceleration, speed and distance, and GPS location.

Due to player privacy, data can be transmitted during games but must be downloaded afterwards. In addition, the iPads that have been approved for use do not have wireless technology and the data can be used for internal purposes only.

Meanwhile, in other sporting news across the pond, while MLB is embracing wearables, the National Basketball Association (NBA), has recently banned the use of a wearable device that tracks various performance metrics such as strain, recovery, sleep and frequent travel impact. The Whoop wrist tracker was reportedly worn by Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Matthew Dellavedova without official approval, and was notified by the NBA that wearables are banned from in-game use – supposedly due to safety concerns.

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