Joe Lemire, SportTechie – February 28, 2018
ACL injuries have long been a plague of Australian Rules Football, likely owing to the cuts, pivots and tackles inherent in the sport. Earlier this decade, however, the Carlton Blues club in Melbourne had designated physiotherapist Sam Rosengarten as its injury prevention coordinator worked with post-doctoral fellow Hossein Mokhtarzadeh on a new program informed by the installation of an innovative markerless motion capture system invented by DARI Motion.
In 2013, Carlton underwent its first season without an ACL tear in a century. The DARI Motion platform — DARI stands for Dynamic Athletic Research Institute and the company was recently acquired by Scientific Analytics, Inc. — capitalizes on the intellectual property in its software and relies on an algorithm to compute ground-reaction forces without the need for a force plate and produce a digital anatomical skeleton.
“We’re able to lump the two together without having to worry about data integration on the backside,” DARI Motion performance solutions manager Mike Prewitt said. “It’s all fully integrated in our software platform. That’s what really sets us aside in the sports performance arena. We’re two technologies in one, in some sense, and it’s really efficient to use it without having to set up two pieces of technology to get the same information.”
When Carlton first installed the system in 2012, 14 cameras were needed, a requirement that has since dwindled to eight.
Though Carlton is no longer a client, Kansas-based DARI Motion has added the Baltimore Ravens (where Rosengarten now works) as well as Notre Dame, Texas, Miami of Ohio, Florida State, Colorado and Nebraska-Omaha in addition to Missouri’s Orthopaedic Institute and periodic work with the Sacramento Kings. (A few other agreements include confidentiality provisions.)
The University of Missouri was also among the earliest adopters. The initial version of the DARI system did require markers, with Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert going through that assessment while at Mizzou; the tool reportedly identified undue force applied to his shoulder during his throwing motion, which led to an altered training program.
Without the need to affix motion-capture markers to athletes before putting them through the screening, the so-called through-put increases dramatically, which is important at universities with hundreds of athletes in their care. Texas’ director of applied sports science, Travis Vlantes, said his department screens athletes usually four times per year at a duration of eight-to-10 minutes per evaluation. Providing objective motion data makes evaluations more reliable and consistent.
“Information from each screen is fed back to our coaches and trainers, in conjunction with other assessments to develop a comprehensive training plan that targets areas of concern and underperformance,” Vlantes wrote in an email. “Our athletic training staff addresses movement restriction or asymmetry detected by the screen while our strength and conditioning coaches focus on improvements in balance & coordination, strength and power.”
Prewitt said the feedback he’s received from clients indicated that injury prevention has been the most successful application of DARI’s platform.
“You can get a picture or at least a trend of what their sport season is doing to their movement patterns and if they are degrading or they are staying stable,” he said. “And obviously making interventions during that time if they see something really significant, but more using that trend information to better their next season’s worth of training prep and peaking their performance.”
Vlantes, meanwhile, indicated the system’s aid in knowing when athletes are back to full strength.
“We have several examples of the screen picking up pre-existing injuries and latent compensation patterns from recent injuries,” Vlantes wrote. “It has also been a very beneficial tool for return to play, comparing baseline screens to post-injury and narrowing the gap from rehab to what occurs during training and competition.”