Can This Device End Major League Baseball's Arm Injury Epidemic?

New York Mets ace Matt Harvey is just one of countless Major League Baseball pitchers who have seen their careers derailed by Tommy John surgery. But a new wearable technology device could be the key to understanding the wave of severe arm injuries that has baffled medical experts tasked with solving the problem.

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This spring, the “Motus Baseball Sleeve,” developed by New York-based biomechanics company Motus Global

Motus Global is one of several active companies in the United States’ exploding wearable technology industry. Wearable sales will hit $14 billion in 2016 and are projected to reach $34 billion by the year 2034, according to a study by research firm CCS Insight.

“The goal from the beginning was always to take movement analysis and analytics in terms of both performance enhancement and injury prevention and develop a physics engine and proprietary software in a laboratory setting, but ultimately to find a vehicle to take that to athletes beyond the walls of our lab,” Joe Nolan, Motus Global’s co-founder and CEO, told

A 2015 survey of more than 5,000 players found that 25% of active MLB pitchers and 15% of minor league pitchers had undergone an ulnar collateral ligament, or UCL reconstruction procedure, commonly known as Tommy John surgery. The problem is so pervasive that MLB officials formed an advisory committee of the nation’s leading orthopedic surgeons to analyze the epidemic.

So far, officials have struggled to explain why today’s baseball players are so much more susceptible to arm injuries than players in past decades. But new technology has made it easier for researchers to understand the crisis.

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“Up to now, the only weapons we had to measure how much someone is stressing out their elbow is how many pitches do they throw and what was the ball speed,” said Dr. Glenn Fleisig, head of research at the American Sports Medicine Institute and a major proponent of the Motus Baseball Sleeve.

Motus Global traces its roots back to the entertainment industry. Nolan, an expert on biomechanics and movement analysis, left the “Motion Analysis Corporation” in 2002 to form “Perspective Studios.”

Along with business partner Keith Robinson, Nolan built “Perspective Studios” into a major biomechanics company that specialized in mapping human movement for 3D animation in movies and video games, such as Rockstar Games’ massive “Grand Theft Auto” series.” The partnership was so successful that Rockstar acquired the company in 2009.

In 2010, Nolan and Robinson approached Dr. Fleisig and his team at ASMI. Famed orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andews, a leading authority on elbow ligament injuries, founded ASMI more than 30 years ago as a nonprofit organization dedicated to the research and prevention of common sports injuries.

The idea was simple – the Motus team would use its expertise in biomechanics to gather data on pitchers at both the major and minor league level. Fleisig would work with his team to analyze the data. That concept blossomed into a “working agreement,” Fleisig said. Baseball teams contract ASMI to perform biomechanical research on their players, and ASMI enlists Motus to gather the relevant data. ASMI and Dr. Andrews are not paid endorsers of Motus Global, but the two outfits work together closely.

“Over 30 years, we’ve had countless people come to us who want to do some kind of deal or partnership. The vast majority, either they fizzled out or they didn’t hold up their end of the deal,” Fleisig told “It impressed me to no end that Joe and Keith, they were doers. It became the most successful partnership that ASMI has had in biomechanics ever.”

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