Student Researches Shoulder Injuries of Baseball Pitchers

Research could not have been conducted without specialized Cybex equipment.

Summer scholar Greg Hess ’07 took his ideas, interest and knowledge within the health and human performance field and created an experiment perfect for him.  With the help of Dr. Matt Rearick, assistant professor for the HHP department, and his expertise on the study of human motion, Hess performed research that has prepared him well for graduate school. 

Hess, an athletic training major and former catcher for the Roanoke College varsity baseball team, wanted to combine his education with his own personal experience. 

“The high rate of shoulder injuries in the sport [baseball], along with the available resources in the HHP department, forced me to narrow down my project idea,” Hess said.  His goal was to identify a baseball pitcher’s recovery time for the shoulder after applying repetitive stress to the muscles and joints. 

 Hess used two All-American legion pitchers as his subjects. Hess recorded and sorted through a wide range of performance measures, with the ultimate goal being to establish the amount of time it takes to recover from the strain a typical pitching performance places on the shoulder. Importantly, the experiment would have been impossible to conduct without access to the Cybex— a device that helps measures the torque, or force, around the joints. 

“We have a full version of the Cybex that many Division III schools do not have,” Rearick says, “and for Division I schools, I would be surprised to see if they even have the full set of equipment.”

The project grew to be more difficult than Hess had imagined but he feels this is where he learned the most.

“I learned that research is time and labor intensive.  It is not always about the answers you get, but the process you take to get there,” says Hess.  He commented about how this was a nice change from a normal college routine because he was able to work independently outside of class while having Rearick’s guidance and support.  He says he forced himself to learn the necessary steps along the way, which served to replicate what graduate school will hold for him.

Rearick says that Hess was exposed to every aspect of research as this is the same process used in graduate school.  “I treated him like a master’s student—you come in with your own idea, and together we develop the process and steps to move ahead,” says Rearick, “and the greatest part about it is I get to learn and grow at the same time.”

Rearick graduated in 2000 from the Pennsylvania State University where he received a Ph.D after completing his study and background research in kinesiology.   He began teaching at Roanoke in the fall of 2005 and has been a great addition to the HHP department.

For the fall of 2006, Rearick helped the college obtain $50,000 worth of new equipment, including an Electromyograph (EMG) that measures neuromuscular patterns, a force plate that can measure postural control and a video analysis system that looks at human kinematics, or motion.  The video analysis allows the student to put anatomical markers on different parts of a subject’s body and records the various types of motion on a computer screen.  This system is the same equipment used to make animated cartoon characters but will allow Roanoke students to measure body movements in greater detail.

Hess’s formal report will be published and presented in the Fintel library when complete.

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