Blurring the boundary between sports science and clinical biomechanics


The Valkyrie-powered lab that’s swinging for the integrated nets.

In late 2023, Houston Methodist Hospital and Rice University launched a unique new venture—the Center for Human Performance, a space for the study and advancement of exercise physiology, injury prevention and rehabilitation of both student athletes and general population subjects.

The 6000-square-foot facility combines a state-of-the-art system of Vicon’s Valkyrie cameras with force-plate measurement, region-by-region quantification of bone density, metabolic analysis, cardiovascular screening and aerobic performance testing.

“For a hospital research department, we are very fortunate not only to have the system that we have, but also the space,” says Jordan Ankersen, a clinical research engineer and recent PhD graduate in Biomedical Engineering. “Not only do we have motion capture and its affiliated technology, we’ve got a Biodex, we’ve got metabolic carts with treadmills and bicycles, we’ve got a DEXA scanner that we can use to assess body composition, and we have a wet lab space, giving us blood and tissue sampling capabilities.”

Swinging for the nets

A key focus for the Center so far has been baseball. “I could probably count on one hand the number of groups who have done marker-based hitting motion capture, because it’s so difficult,” says Ankersen.

As she puts it: “If a baseball can go in a given direction, it’s going to. If it can’t, it’s still going to.” But because the Center’s designers knew it would be capturing baseball from the start, they were able to accommodate the sport.

“We have integrated nets installed in the lab,” says Ankersen. “That’s something that’s really unique. We went ahead and extended our raised flooring for the force platforms down the full-length pitching lane. So, not only do we have a full-length pitching or hitting lane, but we can also have somebody run or jump, and we could use it when working with ballet dancers.”

The work they’ve done has paid off. “The data set that we’ve collected is, as far as I know, one of the biggest in the field,” says Ankersen.


The story doesn’t stop there, to read the full case study, you can download it below.


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