Athletes turn into avatars at new sports performance center

Jun 04, 2012

When you walk into the Mass General Orthopaedics Sports Performance Center, it may look like a 3-D film studio. But it's actually the new frontier in sports performance.

The new state-of-the-art  facility was built to help athletes of all ages and abilities be the best they can be.

Nick Paicos practiced his golf swing in front of a virtual golf course. The staff apply  sets of markers, representing each body part. Standing under infrared and high-speed video cameras, images are shot from every angle. The result? A 3-D motion analysis -- Avatar technology meets sports medicine. 

"We can measure specifically what's happening with the body. We can look at the force in your knee when you swing a club, and by looking at all those specific biomechanic parameters, we can look at how you compensate for a particular weakness," said Dr. Eric Berkson, the center's director.

That data, combined with analysis from clinical experts in physical therapy, biomechanics and orthopaedics helps the athlete begin a regimen to recover from, or prevent injuries.

Landon Wahl pitches for his college team. His series of throws were recorded in 3-D.

"Hopefully if pitchers have any mechanical problems, they can analyze with this kind of technology and try to prevent injuries," said Wahl. "This is probably going to be the next frontier in pitching mechanics." 

But the center envisions a lot more than injury prevention. Whether you're a weekend warrior at golf, a pro-ball player or a little leaguer.

"This is a fantastic environment to see what about you makes you good, and hopefully we can figure out ways to help people excel better in whatever they do," said Berkson. "When we promote a healthy training environment, we can help them succeed better."

So far, programs have been designed for running, golf and baseball. They run anywhere from $300 to $1,200 and are not covered by insurance.

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