Mark Mittiga was looking for a way to make his fastball even faster.
The 18-year-old senior at Walsh Jesuit High School turned to 3-D motion analysis to find answers that coaches, trainers, his father and others couldn’t necessarily see.
By videotaping his pitching mechanics and sending the footage to a consulting biomedical engineer for a high-tech computer analysis, physical therapists from Akron Children’s Hospital were able to determine he needed to use more core strength when releasing the ball, his father, Bob Mittiga, said.
The therapists then developed exercises he could do at home to help him work on his flexibility.
Since the analysis last fall, his father said, the right hander has boosted his velocity several miles per hour to 86, with the ultimate goal of topping 90.
“It’s more analytical,” his father said of the program. “You have something on paper that points out where the concerns were.”
Akron Children’s Hospital’s Center for Orthopedics and Sports Medicine has partnered with ZenoLink, a functional biomechanics firm in Endicott, N.Y., to offer the 3-D analysis.
The service costs $350, which includes a functional assessment, video analysis, detailed results and development of a personalized exercise plan to address issues that are identified.
The program is being promoted by the hospital as demand for performance-enhancement programs to make athletes stronger, faster, more agile and better overall at their sport has become increasingly popular.
But the goal of the analysis isn’t just to boost performance, said Lori Ross, physical therapist at Children’s Center for Orthopedics and Sports Medicine. The analysis also can help identify issues that could lead to injuries.
By evaluating athletes and better understanding their movement patterns, the therapists can work with the athletes “to be able to get them to move their body correctly,” said Mindy Bragg, a physical therapist in the center.
For the Mittiga family, they learned about the 3-D analysis from a physical therapist at Children’s, where Mark and his brother, Dominic, 16, have been patients for several sports-related injuries over the years.
Dominic, a sophomore at Walsh, also went through the analysis last year for his hitting, which has been strong but inconsistent at times, their father said. The analysis showed he needed to do exercises for flexibility, balance, posture and range of motion to improve his bat speed at the point of impact.
Their father said he didn’t have his sons go through the program to try to push them to land scholarships or go pro, though Mark did recently commit to play college baseball with Walsh University.
“I just want them to be as successful as they can be at the level they’re at right now,” he said.
During the videotaping session, a cube-like structure is placed in the field of view while the athlete performs sports-specific activities so the known dimensions can be used to help create calibration points.
The videotape then is sent to ZenoLink, where a 3-D representation is created for the athlete’s body segments and joints so movements can be compared to norms and averages for elite athletes in the sport, said Chris Welch, founder and chief executive of ZenoLink. Welch is a biomedical engineer who specializes in biomechanics.
“Obviously, looking at something with the trained eye of the coach or trainer is good information, but what we can do is look at things they can’t see,” he said. “It’s not necessarily better than what the coach is doing. It’s just additional information the coach didn’t have.
“…We’re able to provide them that information inside the body on what’s going on.”
With pitchers, for example, coaches might notice an incorrect arm position, he said. The analysis can then determine “the fundamental movements behind that arm position.”
Welch has provided analysis for pitching, baseball and golf swings, tennis serves, volleyball, cycling, running, sprinting, shot put, lacrosse, softball — “pretty much any sport-based body motion,” he said.
ZenoLink has about 40 partners worldwide that work directly with the athletes and send the videotapes for analysis.
The company is paid a consulting fee for each report.
Along with offering the service to athletes throughout the region, Akron Children’s also is working with ZenoLink to research soccer performance, which Welch said is being requested by soccer programs in Europe.
Children’s therapists are videotaping men’s and women’s soccer players from the University of Akron to serve as the elite models for the project.
Cheryl Powell can be reached at 330-996-3902 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Powell on Twitter at twitter.com/abjcherylpowell.