EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 5, 2010

College student's high-tech training shirt aims to prevent pitching injuries

North Andover graduate develops high-tech training gear as college project

By Brian Messenger

NORTH ANDOVER — David Schmidt is the first to admit that he's not much of a baseball fan.

In fact, biomechanics has been the North Andover native's pastime of choice ever since he was accepted to graduate school at Northeastern University.

But Schmidt, 23, and two of his classmates now have the big leagues on notice, thanks to a high-tech training shirt they've developed for pitchers as part of an undergraduate senior project.

By using the shirt to monitor body mechanics, Schmidt and his classmates believe pitchers can work to avoid often-serious injuries to their throwing arms caused by fatigue and bad habits.

The shirt is just like any other compression shirt commonly worn by athletes, only imbedded into the fabric are sensors and conductive thread.

The thread, which powers the sensors located on the back, forearm and biceps, links up to a software program that's used to record the acceleration and movement of the pitching arm.

By analyzing the data, Schmidt said coaches can closely monitor a pitcher's delivery and work to ensure proper mechanics, and in turn avoid injuries like ligament tears.

Schmidt is a senior at Northeastern and graduated from North Andover High School in 2005.

Though he and Northeastern classmates Marcus Moche and Alexandra Morgan have thus far only developed an early prototype of the training shirt, Schmidt said they've already been contacted by three Major League Baseball teams interested in their idea.

Schmidt said professional pitchers rely on similar technology to track their mechanics, but the reflective markers and high-speed cameras now in use keep them stuck in the laboratory.

"You can't be in a game setting," said Schmidt. "We're trying to capture the same movements and same data, but we want something that can be wearable on the field."

By wearing their training shirt on the baseball diamond rather than in the lab, Schmidt said pitchers can get into a similar mentality as they would in a real game.

Schmidt said their shirt would be ideal for spring training or practice sessions, and also for professional teams hoping to instill good mechanics in their young pitching talent.

Over the long haul, Schmidt said such preventative work can prove to be very valuable.

During their initial research, Schmidt said his classmates determined that arm injuries to pitchers cost Major League Baseball teams an average of $54 million in player salaries per season.

Schmidt said that doesn't include the cost of medical treatment.

Schmidt, who now lives in Brookline, will graduate with a bachelor's degree in May.

For now, further development of the training shirt is on hold. But Schmidt said he and his classmates are hopeful their invention will one day become an every-day tool for ball clubs.

"Either way it's a good resume booster," said Schmidt.