If you have thrown a baseball, you understand that pitching at high speeds is no easy feat. Now think of a young high school pitcher. They have to practice those throws hundreds of times a week. With all this stress to the arm, it’s no wonder that injuries are so prevalent among high school players. This is what Ziel Solutions wants to fix with their wearable sleeve.
According to their website, 60 percent of high school baseball pitchers suffer serious arm injuries. Even worse, over half of these players cannot return or have limited careers. This continues all the way into the professional level. About a quarter of these pitchers has had some form of surgery on their arms. Ziel Solutions wants to prevent these injuries by identifying two of the major culprits — improper technique and overexertion of arm muscles.
Ziel Solutions’ fix is a wearable sleeve that combines muscle sensors and motion analysis. It does this through accelerometers, gyroscopes, magnetometers, and electromyography. We hear the first three all the time when motion tracking is involved, but what is electromyography? This is a common technique that records the electrical activity of a muscle. By analyzing the activity levels, the sleeve can detect fatigue and overuse before it leads to an injury.
“We can get a good read on data points to monitor major risk factors for injuries, such as muscle fatigue, the stress exerted on the arm, throwing mechanics, things like that,” co-creator Senthil Natarajan told SportTechie. “What that gives us is a device that allows us to make real-time decisions on the health and the status of the player’s arm.”
All this important data is directly sent over Bluetooth to an app on a smartphone or tablet. A coach will see real-time data alongside practical advice to keep the player throwing safely and with the correct motion.
The sleeve begins beta testing in 2017 to see how it holds up during actual play. Ziel Solutions wants to make sure that it is comfortable and durable. If everything goes well, the sleeve is expected to make it to market by early 2018.
Ziel Solutions is young startup company founded by two Rice University students Natarajan and Alex Dzeda. The idea came about after Natarajan injured his arm when he was 14, preventing him from pitching for his high school baseball team. He later teamed up with fellow electrical engineering student Dzeda to save young pitchers from a similar fate.
This follows a recent trend in fitness tech. The more we learn about the human body, the better we get at detecting its warning signs. Technology like Ziel Solutions’ sleeve makes fitness safer for all athletes.