***Disclosure: TAE is listed here as a biomechanist for the company in the following article. TAE readily admits he is highly biased, thinks the company discussed below is outstanding, and happily discloses his affiliation with them. With that in mind...
Here, the University of Tennessee athletic department reveals they have been involved in "fatigue testing" involving a 12-camera motion capture system utilized by the Dynamic Athlete Research Institute, or DARI:
The tests, administered by Kansas City-based Dynamic Athletics Research Institute, provided a baseline movement of a healthy athlete and a fatigued athlete. Their proprietary computer program then analyzes the data and provides results about 24-48 hours in most cases. "We take that information and break it down into numbers," says Patrick Moodie, DARI Sport's lead biomechanist. "We can tell you the time and position. We can tell you the velocities. We can tell you all this kinematic and kinetic data that you just can't see."Biomechanical analysis is really the cutting edge of sports fitness now. Diet and exercise patterns have never been more effective, training regimens now allow athletes to "peak" at the right times, such as cyclists peaking right before the Tour de France.
However, all the training in the world doesn't help if you are injured. One of the key issues in athletics, be it collegiate or professional, is how to determine if an injured player has returned to 100%. Currently, the best practice is for clinicians (doctors) to test range of motion, etc and give the athlete a clean bill of health, and then other clinicians (physical therapists and trainers) to evaluate the athlete to determine if they are performing at their peak. There is little or no quantitative data...the evaluation is qualitative. As an engineer and scientist, the term "qualitative" makes me queasy. You don't get research funded if your supporting data is qualitative. You don't get your PhD writing a qualitative thesis. Qualitative science is what elementary school science fair projects are: "the liquid turned blue when the base was added."
Quantitative data is much more satisfying. Which is why I find DARI's efforts both intensely interesting and laudable. Why not quantify an athlete? Why not quantify an athlete's ability every year, at the start and finish of a season? Why not archive that data so that after an injury, it's possible to know exactly when an athlete is performing at the level they were pre-injury? Why not quantify the athlete's abilities in comparison to other athletes? Wouldn't coaches and recruiters love to know that kind of thing beyond the current "he brings a physicality to the game" or "his intangibles are great"...DARI can quantify the intangibles!
I once wrote that Lance Armstrong represents the truest blend of science and sports; his time in windtunnels, chasing aerodynamics, his friction reducing skinsuits, his ultra-light bikes, his training regimen...all of it blends engineering principles with athletic performance. DARI too, represents a leap forward in technological sports. Truly I tell you, while athletes running around in an invisible cube wearing a dot-covered suit may seem absurd to old-school coaches, trainers, and sports medicine doctors...so too did the forward pass, or the spread offense, or high-tops, or aero bars. Now these things aren't just common-place...they are a necessity. In 10, maybe 15 years, I fully expect that every big-college football team, every big-college basketball team, and every professional baseball, football, and basketball team will either have a motion analysis team on site, or will pay large fees to have annual or biannual analyses done on their athletes. I expect the kind of analysis done by DARI (right now they are literally the only ones on the planet with their capabilities outside of hard-research University applications) at the NFL combine. I expect, to say the least, biomechanical analysis of athletes to spread like wildfire.