December 1, 2006 A new computer-based system gives physical therapists real-time, objective measures of the motion of each joint in the patient's body. The system uses magnetic trackers to read the positions of electrodes placed at several points on the body, and translates the information into an animation. Physical therapists can also use it to educate patients on how to avoid motions that can cause the injuries in the first place.
Football is a tough game. One hard hit can take you out for the season, and nobody knows that better than number 32, Willie Byrd.
"I took a head-on collision to the knee with a helmet," he says. That hit tore Byrd's ACL. Now, he's is working with physical therapist Michael Way to get back into shape. They're using new "Motion Monitor" technology at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem.
"This gives us a very accurate and detailed objective measure of how much a joint is moving," Way tells DBIS.
The sophisticated 3D, computer-based technology looks at the body as an integrated system. Electrodes connected to several points on Byrd's body are read by magnetic trackers to show exactly how each joint moves and its range of motion. The information is translated into animation.
"We can see small variations that we would sometimes have difficulty seeing with our own eyes," Way says.
The Motion Monitor cannot only help athletes get back in the game, but also prevent injuries. "If you're looking at just his arm movement, you're going to think everything is very symmetrical," Way says. "If you come down here, you'll see this shoulder blade is moving a lot more than that left one."
He also uses it to help golfers. "Right at impact, she's got another shift backwards which is taking a lot of power away from the swing," Way says. Not only improving their game, but getting them back in it.
In addition to golf swings, baseball pitches, and sports involving running, the Motion Monitor can also be used to help businesses track if repetitive motion hurts their employees and shows them how to prevent injuries on the job.
BACKGROUND: A new 3D computer-based motion-capture system enables physical therapists to look at the body as an integrated system almost in real time. In the past, therapists have found it difficult to quantify how joint segments interact with one another after injury. Being able to look at the body as an interconnected system enables them to develop more comprehensive treatment programs. It can also be used for prevention. For example, a new golf program can be used to review the body mechanics of a golfer's swing to make sure it is the most effect, taking full advantage of the golfer's strength without risk of injury. Body mechanics refers to the way we move during everyday activities. Good body mechanics can prevent o correct problems with posture, for example, and protect the body (such as the back) from pain and injury.
HOW IT WORKS: Among other technologies, the system tracks the location and movement of the head using magnetoencephalography (MEG). MEG is a non-invasive imaging technique that provides detailed information about the brain almost in real time by using special superconducting quantum interference device (SQUID) sensors to measure the magnetic field generated by the electrical currents flowing in and around the brain's neurons. This is the same technology that is used in conjunction with epilepsy surgery to ensure that the surgery doesn't affect parts of the brain associated with speech or other functions, just the area that is causing the seizures. Other sensor technologies are used to collect data on all aspects of common sports movements. The computer system processes the data to produce 3D computerized renderings and synchronized video of the captured motion, along with data analysis.
WHAT IS ERGONOMICS: This is a branch of science that strives to design the job to fit the worker, rather than the other way around. In the modern office, it most commonly relates to the physical stresses placed on joints, muscles, nerves, tendons, bones, even hearing and eyesight, along with other environmental factors that can adversely affect comfort and health. Ergonomics deals with the interaction of technology and work environments with the human body, and involves anatomy, physiology and psychology in the design of chairs, desks, computer accessories, the design of car controls and instruments -- in short, any kind of product that could help relieve potential repetitive strain from a given job or task.
LIFTING TIPS: When lifting a heavy object, your feet should be apart in a standing position. Keep your back straight as you lower your body to get close to the object. Bend from your hips and knees; DO NOT bend at the waist. When turning rotate your whole body, not just your back. Keeping your knees bent and your back straight, lift the object using your arm and leg muscles. Do not use your back muscles.
Editor's Note: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.