3-D imaging gives Missouri Orthopaedic Institute a leg up

Friday, May 10, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 7:56 a.m. CDT, Friday, May 10, 2013

COLUMBIA — To the naked eye, Laurence Bowers looked fine.

The Missouri basketball team was sputtering, dropping two out of three conference games after Bowers suffered a sprained MCL in the team's Jan. 8 contest against Alabama.

"The coaches wanted him back, like, yesterday," James Stannard, the surgeon who repaired Bowers' torn ACL a year earlier, said.

Stannard observed Bowers complete a variety of physical tasks, and the Tigers' forward looked alright. But when Bowers was tested in a room fitted with infrared censors, Stannard saw that Bowers wasn't jumping right. His body wasn't properly using muscles around his knee — something the human eye couldn't see, Stannard said.

Dynamic Athletics Research Institute developed the system that halted Bowers' premature return. Its developers call it DARI. The Missouri Orthopaedic Institute at University Hospital is the only facility in this hemisphere to use the technology. (An Australian rules football team, Carlton Football Club, based in Melbourne, also uses the DARI system.)

The Institute held an open house Thursday night to show off their new system, beginning with presentations from Stannard and Brett Hayes, director of therapy. Then Patrick Moodie, one of DARI's founders, demonstrated the technology. Using 14 infrared cameras surrounding a reflective floor and three reflective walls, a man's movements — he stood straight and extended both arms outward — were tracked and angular movements assessed.

"It's XBOX Kinect on steroids," Moodie said. 

Results are sent to the DARI headquarters in Overland Park, Kan., where they're interpreted and sent back to the physical therapists at the Missouri Orthopaedic Institute. The data exchange, Moodie said, takes about 10 minutes.

Stannard said that the technology gave the Missouri Orthopaedic Institute the ability to better understand how to change therapy movements to make them safer and more efficient.

Roughly 19 percent of all track and field medalists in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London hailed from SEC schools, according to a news release from the conference.

"With that high level of play, we must bring a high level of care," Stannard said.

The long-term plans for the technology aren't concrete, although he said the Institute has ambitious goals. It wants to apply the system to MU athletes by storing a "normal," or baseline, for all athletes. In this scenario, the injured athletes couldn't return until they reached their baseline results. Then, Stannard wants to compare the data of injured athletes to be able to better assess "return-to-play" criteria.

MU football's Henry Josey was a prime example for how the technology could have been used to facilitate treatment, Stannard said.

"There's nothing in the books about that combination of injuries," he said, referring to Josey's devastating knee injury in 2011 that forced him to redshirt in 2012. "I wish we had a 'normal' for Josey. We maybe could have gone faster (in his rehab)."

Hayes said that the technology will be able to help therapists better assess injuries and develop a more comprehensive rehab plan. He said that all therapists at the Missouri Orthopaedic Institute are qualified to use the system, and that the technology extends to care for almost all patients — about 80 percent of all of the group's patients go through DARI testing.

Quality of care improves, Hayes said, because the system takes the human element of judgement out of rehabbing.

"To get true, objective information is very difficult with human observations," he said. "With this technology, we can get real, computer-driven data. The possibilities are endless."

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