A Wide-Range, Wireless Wearable Inertial Motion Sensing System for Capturing Fast Athletic Biomechanics in Overhead Pitching

Sensors (Basel). 2019 Aug 21;19(17):3637. doi: 10.3390/s19173637.


The standard technology used to capture motion for biomechanical analysis in sports has employed marker-based optical systems. While these systems are excellent at providing positional information, they suffer from a limited ability to accurately provide fundamental quantities such as velocity and acceleration (hence forces and torques) during high-speed motion typical of many sports. Conventional optical systems require considerable setup time, can exhibit sensitivity to extraneous light, and generally sample too slowly to accurately capture extreme bursts of athletic activity. In recent years, wireless wearable sensors have begun to penetrate devices used in sports performance assessment, offering potential solutions to these limitations. This article, after determining pressing problems in sports that such sensors could solve and surveying the state-of-the-art in wearable motion capture for sports, presents a wearable dual-range inertial and magnetic sensor platform that we developed to enable an end-to-end investigation of high-level, very wide dynamic-range biomechanical parameters. We tested our system on collegiate and elite baseball pitchers, and have derived and measured metrics to glean insight into performance-relevant motion. As this was, we believe, the first ultra-wide-range wireless multipoint and multimodal inertial and magnetic sensor array to be used on elite baseball pitchers, we trace its development, present some of our results, and discuss limitations in accuracy from factors such as soft-tissue artifacts encountered with extreme motion. In addition, we discuss new metric opportunities brought by our systems that may be relevant for the assessment of micro-trauma in baseball.

Keywords: MARG; ballistic motion; baseball; high-dynamic range motion capture; inertial measurement vs. optical tracking; jerk; pitching; wearable IMU; wearable inertial sensor; wearable wireless sensor; wireless wearable motion sensing.

MeSH terms

  • Acceleration
  • Adult
  • Athletes
  • Athletic Performance / physiology*
  • Baseball / physiology
  • Biomechanical Phenomena / physiology
  • Biosensing Techniques / methods*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Wearable Electronic Devices*
  • Wireless Technology
  • Young Adult