RPP Baseball Investing in Qualisys Motion Capture System

By Nunzio Signore and Bahram Shirazi

mocap baseball
(Images: Courtesy of Qualisys Motion Capture)

We are very excited to announce that after many months of research and study we are taking another big step forward in providing the best for our pitchers and ball players.  Beginning in late spring, we will be installing a Qualisys biomechanics motion capture system at RPP.

Day-in day-out, we strive to be the best that we can be. We constantly evaluate and improve our internal training methods, systems and standards. Whether you’re throwing a ball or swinging a bat, when you go from 0-90 mph in approximately 1 second, a lot can go right but a lot can also go wrong.

Such explosive movements make it exceptionally difficult to completely and accurately assess movement patterns with 2D systems (such as video cameras). In addition, a mocap system allows you to evaluate “Kinematics” (angular movements and velocities) and “kinetics” (torque) on the body from many different positions in the delivery/swing.

Motion capture (“mocap”) is considered to be the gold standard of measuring athletic movement. While this investment will provide us with invaluable information on optimal movement and timing, we also view this as an investment towards a more efficient and individualized way of maximizing performance.

Based on prior work done by Drs. James Andrews and Glenn Fleisig at the American Sports Medicine Institute (“ASMI”) and Driveline Baseball, we now believe this investment to be an absolute necessity in evaluating and training our athletes.

What is motion capture?

Mocap is the process of digitally recording movement. It is used in military, entertainment, sports and many other applications. It basically refers to recording human movement digitally and using that information to create an avatar at extremely high levels of accuracy.

During motion capture, movements are recorded synchronously with multiple cameras at the same time and many times per second. This information is then mapped to a 3D model such that the avatar performs the same actions as the athlete in the digital world.

(Video: Courtesy of Qualisys Motion Capture)

Mocap comes into two forms, marker-less and marker-based, which brings us to the next topic.

What’s the difference between marker-less and marker-based motion capture?

The two technologies basically do exactly as they’re named. Marker-less means there are no markers attached to the body. While marker-based means reflective markers are physically attached during the activity.

We chose a marker-based system because of its sub-millimeter accuracy. Yes, you read that correctly! We will be able to capture movement at extremely high speeds with accuracy levels below 1 mm.  Here are examples of typical reflective markers which are attached to the body.

How does the system work?

Athletes are fitted with reflective markers at various points on the body.

The Qualisys mocap system is equipped with 10 Miqus cameras.   It collects data that is used to quantitatively record a position player’s swing or pitcher’s delivery.

Qualisys Camera Positions

The information is then funneled through C-Motion’s Visual 3D software which allows us to look at body positions at key moments.  Both kinematic and kinetic data are recorded and made available for analysis.  The data provides a comprehensive overview of the athlete’s movement, which when combined with our initial assessment will provide an extremely thorough picture of the athlete’s performance.

What type of information does it provide?

Although the system can collect data on any type of movement, we will be generally focused on the baseball-related topics such as the following:

    • Arm Action (pitchers)
    • Swing (batters)
    • Torso
    • Lower Body
    • Lead Leg

In addition, we will also have access to angular velocities, kinematic sequencing and joint kinetics.  Here is a snapshot of a typical set of data:

Kinematics:

Kinetics:

Why is this information relevant?

This type of information is extremely valuable from several different perspectives, including:

First, although we provide one of the most comprehensive upfront assessments in the industry, a mocap system paints a thorough picture of how body parts are performing at extremely high speeds. It’s sort of similar to running a complete engine check while the car is in idle vs. doing the same when travelling at 200 mph. A lot may seem normal at idle, but things can begin to break down at higher velocities.

Second, the data allows us to have a much better understanding of the torque and consequent stress placed on different parts of the body during the delivery. While higher stress levels naturally come along with higher velocities, much of this may also be due to strength and/or mobility limitations or less than optimal positions in the delivery.

Third, we can use the system to help provide a detailed picture of where players and pitchers may be losing velocity. This is obviously what everyone is interested in.  However, putting the complete picture together is crucial to make better decisions in the weight room and on the mound or at the plate.

How would you utilize this information?

The information will become part and parcel to our assessments for the more physically mature athletes.  It will allow us to directly pursue weaknesses in the kinetic chain through our strength training, and throwing and hitting corrective programs.

When are you implementing the motion capture system?

Our mocap system will be up and running by early-May.

Do we get to see a report?

YES! We can provide extremely detailed reports on your mechanics as a pitcher or a player while swinging a bat.  It will be available to all participants.

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