Sleeve Created To Combat Elbow Injuries In Baseball Pitchers
There is an innovation in sports science now being tested that some say could change the future of baseball. With arm injuries rampant across all levels of baseball, the Motus Sports Sleeve is being touted to give the feedback pitchers need to help prevent arm injuries.
At East Bay Little League in Gibsonton, hundreds of kids are preparing for the upcoming winter ball season. They're pitching at all sorts of speeds. But, as they continue to pitch, many of these kids will face elbow injuries. A company located in Bradenton and New York believes they have an answer.
Motus Global's Ben Hansen says his company has a way to slow down the growing problem of elbow injuries requiring Tommy John Surgery. A surgery used to repair a critical ligament in the elbow, named after the first person to have the surgery done, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Tommy John in 1974.
“Where the value comes in with performance is allowing athletes and coaches to monitor things like power, command and consistency of the throws,” Hansen said. “But where it comes on the injury prevention side is the ability to track elbow bears torque, which is a torque imparted to the UCL which is the ulnar collateral ligament and that is what tears in a Tommy John incident.”
The sleeve slips over the pitcher's elbow. It has sensors throughout, giving feedback to pitchers through a smart phone to tell them when they are getting tired or need to adjust how they are pitching.
But, baseball players are a superstitious bunch. So one of the problems with any new athletic wear is convincing players that it won't hurt their performance. Hansen, Motus' Vice President of Technology, bets that baseball players will be willing to change their routine to be able to keep pitching.
“People are beginning to embrace sports science data very much. And if it's something that can keep them healthy, it's automatically a benefit, but another thing I challenge you to do is go to a little league park, and look how many kids are already wearing compression sleeves,” Hansen said. “So I don't think we will be asking them to do too much than they are used to, and if so, it's the benefit of being able to empower them with actionable sports science data, I think outweighs the risk of any kind of routine they may be making changes in.”
The sleeve is the same size as a standard compression sleeve, covering most of the pitchers throwing arm, with a quarter sized sensor around the elbow.
The sleeve tracks the exact force exerted on the pitcher's elbow, as well as tracking the speed of the arm. Hansen says it takes that information and determines fatigue over time.
“So the science is embedded with 3D technology, this technology interfaces with a mobile phone, and measures 3D mechanics of a throw, from those mechanics we measure, we extract things like fatigue, efficiency, power and command,” Hansen said. “And offer insight into the injury risk of the athlete as well as their performance potential.”
Ryan Whelton is a doctor of physical therapy and owner of the Sport and Spine Physical Therapy and Wellness Center in Tampa. He says pitchers don't always notice when they are tired, and pitching tired can put a lot of stress on the pitcher's' elbow.
“If it does what is says it's going to do, it'll dramatically reduce the need for these type of surgeries, by giving them a sensor and telling you when the pitcher is tired, versus pitch count or you know a coach eye-balling a pitcher and noticing his mechanics are breaking down,” Whelton said.
The sleeve is expected to cost around $150. That's a fraction of what most parents spend on sports fees and equipment for their children, according to the RetailMeNot, the nation's largest online coupon site.
Back at East Bay Little League, Pablo Torres watches his 15 year old son, Jeremy practice. He says it's all about keeping your child healthy.
“First of all, if it's going to tell you when his arm starts to wear out, that alone, is going to do wonders for him. And then working on the mechanics of it,” Torres said. “It depends, it's a kind of on the high end, but it sounds like it's going to be well worth it because, you'll be able to save your son's arm a lot better, the money is worth your child being protected.”
Testing is still being done on the Motus Sports Sleeve. Hansen says it is expected to soon be on the market.