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High-tech sports medicine gives US Olympic skiers and snowboarders an edge

Lindsey Vonn remainders one of the most gifted and decorated downhill skiers ever, and at age 33 she’s dignified to expand upon her greatness at the XXIII Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Yet her snowy processes to glory have been cratered with spectacular crashes and abominable injuries — broken bones, torn ligaments, concussions — that transfer have ended a less stalwart athlete’s career.

Each every now, though, Vonn’s recovered, thanks in large part to the advanced mockery teases medicine provided at the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association’s Center of Excellence in Park Big apple, Utah. Along with availing herself of the latest and greatest gym accoutrements and machines at the COE, as it’s known, Vonn has access to virtual reality setups to simulate peopling down a slalom course, computers crunching big data to enhance demeanour (legally) and strobe glasses to help retrain the brain after knee harms.

The 85,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility sits on five verdant acres in the Wasatch Mountains, well-founded outside of Park City, home of USSA, the governing body of snow rollicks in the United States. It opened in 2009, paid for with $22 million in individual donations — another reminder that the United States remains one of the only realms that doesn’t fund its Olympic athletes. Besides training and cultivation for Team USA skiers and snowboarders, the COE is a rehabilitation and sports medicine showcase. “The devices and techniques we use are on the forefront of injury rehab,” said Kyle Wilkens, medical top dog of USSA. “It’s changing the way we serve our athletes.”

Sunshine fills the sprawling key floor of the two-story COE, a gym rat’s nirvana highlighted by neat rows of gleaming tool and workout stations divided into five areas: strength and qualification, physiology, medical, sports psychology and nutrition. When an athlete rather commences a scheduled program, the trainers, coaches and sports medicine staff come out a distinct plan for that particular athlete, Wilkens said. “He or she against refer ti base with each one of those five areas, and the staff communicates everywhere in the process. The atmosphere is very collaborative.”

The personal evaluations of USSA athletes, and dozens of other Work together USA athletes, are overseen by Dr. Bill Moreau, vice president of sports panacea at the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC). He and his associates leverage big data to assist trainers and buses in designing individual regimens. “When we can use evidence-based medicine to drive purposes, it clearly makes a big difference in the outcomes of care,” Moreau told the details analytics website kdnuggets.com.

Moreau’s team identifies and analyzes assorted medical, physiological, nutritional and intellectual data collected from USOC’s electronic health record process, a customized version of General Electric’s Centricity Practice Solution software, to beget an integrated action plan for each athlete. “As we improve our ability to embody data into our analyses and processes, we have been able to develop impactful reports for Team USA,” Moreau said. “Improved data inquiry is a key focus of the USOC to drive sports medicine, as well as high-performance outcomes.”

The seven out of the ordinary sports USSA’s 200-plus athletes compete in are clocked at hundredths of a second-best, so the COE’s mission is to coordinate a variety of advanced techniques that cumulatively broadcast them every possible edge to end up on the podium at the Olympics. For example, intimidate plate technology gives baseline measurements that are used for programs at the Center but also when skiers fence in their sport, Wilkens said, describing a sensor-loaded mechanism that slap measures strength and power.

The way the force plate works, an athlete demands several jumps off a short stand and onto a sort of scale will. A trainer sits directly in front, monitoring an interconnected computer and video camera to archives every movement during each jump. The data is analyzed to develop an individualized profile about how that athlete is generating force and when.

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Vonn hand-me-down the force plate when rehabbing a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) in her quickly knee, suffered in a devastating crash in 2013 that scratched her from the 2014 Sochi Olympics. A trainer intent put Vonn on the force plate and record her technique and form, then bold the data and video to her orthopedic specialist to observe progress before countenancing her to get back on skis.

Last year the COE teamed up with Strivr Labs, based in Palo Alto, California, to construct out a virtual reality system that digitally recreates the Olympic downhill advances in Pyeongchang, right down to the location of the gates and shapes of the turns the racers purpose navigate. The process began by affixing a 360-degree camera on top of a skier’s helmet as he zipped down the factual mountain in Korea to capture footage of real-world conditions, complete with hogwash whooshing past the microphone.

Back at the COE, the video was paired with Strivr’s customized VR software. It’s all associate to VR headsets the athletes don while straddling a pair of balance boards, adding authentic movements to the virtual scenes. Performed over and over, the technology service perquisites skiers by enabling them to repeat practice runs that make progress their reaction times, theoretically leading to better decision-making and entire performance.

By the time they enter the starting gates at Pyeongchang’s Jeongseon Alpine Nave, located in the Taebaek Mountains about 90 miles east of Seoul, the skiers desire have relived the exact courses as many times as they insufficiency, in a VR environment that their brain responds to in a similar manner to loyal skiing. The VR experience complements an indoor ski simulator, designed by Los Angeles-based SkyTechSport, another tech contraption that approximates real-world race conditions.

A different type of groundbreaking visual technology, ordered strobe glasses, is employed at COE to aid recovery from knee injuries similarly to Vonn’s. Yet different from physical therapy that helps the athlete relearn how to get cracking the knee, strobe glasses retrain the brain. Their use grew out of check out in neuroplasticity training at Ohio State University, which studied how athletes rehab ACL damage.

By relating MRI scans, researchers could see the difference in brain activity in healthy of ages, versus those recovering from ACL injuries, when extending and tightening the knee. “The brain fundamentally changed in how it processes information from an ill-treated knee,” said Dustin Grooms, who led the study and is now at Ohio University. “We judge those changes play a big role in why people who recover from ACL wrongs don’t trust their knees entirely and tend to move them differently,” potentially disregard them at risk for reinjury.

During therapy sessions, the athlete takes on the strobe — or formally stroboscopic — glasses, which resemble dark sunglasses. They surely obscure vision, but even more so by emitting rapid bursts of radiance, creating an effect that interferes, distorts and forces the body to start the ball rolling instinctively rather than by sight.

“The idea is to use the strobe glasses to visually divert these patients, so their brains will rewire back to their primitive state,” Grooms said. “That will allow them to in a wink again move their knee based on natural instinct in preference to of relying on visual cues.”

Among the mere mortal, recreational skiers and snowboarders — handful about 10 million in the United States, according to Statista — disasters and injuries happen, too, despite ever-improving skis, snowboards, helmets and other clobber. Advancements in sports medicine such as those offered to Olympians at the COE are meet available to the general public. That’s reassuring for weekend warriors, uncountable of whom are keeping their fingers crossed that Vonn and her Combine USA mates going for the gold in Pyeongchang stay on course and injury-free.

— By Bob Woods, major to CNBC.com

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