Winter Park using motion capture tech to prevent injuries

An individual goes through a series of exercises in front of the DARI system at Winter Park Competition Center.
Courtesy Photo |

The world of sports can be brutal. Athletes undergo vicious training programs, endless travel and must constantly face the menacing prospect of a serious injury. But as sports become more competitive, so do the technologies working to create stronger, more resilient athletes.

The Winter Park Competition Center recently implemented the DARI Motion Health system, a motion-capture technology that takes full-body musculoskeletal images and allows for detailed analysis about the strength, flexibility and dysfunction in athletes.

“This is really a pilot study to see how we can use this system in an efficient way that informs programming, periodization and how to translate that to the field,” said Stephanie Zavilla, director of sports performance at the competition center. “If we can see an athlete compensating, than being able to address that asymmetry ahead of time could help prevent injury and we’re going to see performance enhancement on the slope.”

Athletes enter a small room where they perform a series of 15 predetermined exercises in front of a surrounding set of 3-D cameras. Unlike other motion capture systems, which require a series of electrodes to be placed on the body, the DARI system works using only cameras. This also means that trainers are able to analyze results within minutes, as opposed to hours with previous systems.

The exercises target numerous areas of the body including shoulder movements, spite rotation, bilateral squats, single leg squats and a series of jumps and balancing movements.

The system collects data such as strength, power, balance and flexibility and then measures them against an indexed average to determine performance. The analysis also gives detailed data on the athlete’s performance in each of the individual exercises.

“It’s really measuring the functionality of the athlete, and what the primary muscle movers are,” said Mike Bowman, alpine program director for the competition center. “What it really comes down to is are we doing the proper training of muscles to get these athletes moving the right way, and the most efficient way.”

The primary focus of the system is to maximize efficiency and performance as well as to identify weaknesses and asymmetries in the athlete’s movements to reduce risk of injuries.

Analysis shows which motions are straining an athlete’s flexibility or strength, and how their movements change once fatigue kicks in.

“Athletes get really strong during the summer and go into the season feeling really good, but with such a rigorous schedule of training, competing and traveling you can see strength and power decline,” said Zavilla. “When this happens the potential for injury also increases. What we really wanted to do was combat that and find a way to maintain strength and power throughout the season.”

Zavilla said that this system is also currently being used by professional basketball and football teams as well as medically in orthopedic firms. The possibility exists that the competition center will someday be able to move the DARI system out to the slopes to analyze athletes while they perform their natural movements, although this is likely a long way out due to a lack of data to support analysis in those specific movements, according to Bowman.

The system in Winter Park is primarily meant for athletes at the competition center, but anyone is welcome to use the technology for a price.

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