New wearable could help athletes avoid orthopedic surgery and improve PT

A wearable sensor developed by sports biomechanics company Motus Global to reduce the risk of Major League Baseball pitchers straining the ulnar collateral ligament is also being assessed for physical therapy with a major medical institution, according to an emailed statement from the company. Here’s how it works. The Sleeve is worn on the pitcher’s […]

A wearable sensor developed by sports biomechanics company Motus Global to reduce the risk of Major League Baseball pitchers straining the ulnar collateral ligament is also being assessed for physical therapy with a major medical institution, according to an emailed statement from the company.

Here’s how it works. The Sleeve is worn on the pitcher’s elbow and contains a 3D motion sensor that gathers data on things like arm speed, pitch counts, and other relevant information. Trainers and managers use the data collected by a smartphone app to detect body changes such as UCL deterioration and other changes in pitchers’ and batters’ performance, according to a company statement. The technology is being expanded for specialized needs in other sports such as tennis, football, basketball, and golf. By analyzing the data, trainers and managers can spot signs of strain earlier and take appropriate action before it results in an injury that sidelines players.

It has beta tested the wearable with nine major league baseball teams during the Fall. Motus is rolling out its Sleeve for professional athletes in time for spring training next year. It’s also developing a consumer version of the Sleeve to launch next year.

Although the Sleeve is intended to reduce the risk of injury in professional baseball, the plan is to make it available on the consumer market as well. The Hospital for Special Surgery is among its partners. A couple of physicians from the hospital joined Motus’ advisory board in the run-up to the launch.

Dr. David Altchek is an Attending Orthopedic Surgeon and Co-Chief Emeritus in the Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service at the Hospital for Special Surgery. He is the Medical Director for the New York Mets and a medical consultant for the NBA.  Dr. Joshua Dines is a member of the Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service at the Hospital for Special Surgery. He is also an assistant team physician for the Mets and Long Island Ducks, an Orthopedic Sports Medicine Consultant for the New York Rangers, and a consultant for the LA Dodgers.

“With children playing sports at an earlier age and on a year-round schedule, we are seeing an epidemic of overuse injuries and having to do surgeries at a progressively younger age. We’re not going to change the sports culture, so anything that can change the damage should be aggressively supported,” said Dines.

A few other wearables want to tackle the physical therapy space. UpCouture’s Up T shirt is designed to track posture — it launched at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year. A group of researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and the Center for Balance Disorders at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center presented a paper earlier this year on a small study of patients doing physical therapy at home using a cap they designed to record their performance called SenseCap. The thinking is that if physical therapists could see how the patients are doing between visits they could make more informed decisions on treatment or tweaking their therapy. It would also help motivate patients to do these exercises knowing their performance would be tracked.