Baseball is Connor Riley's love and passion, and since he's a minor league pitcher in the Los Angeles Angels organization, it's also his job.
So when the Aurora-native's right shoulder was slow to recover after surgery in May of 2018, he felt demoralized.
"I felt like I was a bug caught in a spiders web," Riley said. "That’s how my shoulder felt – it just wouldn’t move. And to see all my other buddies progressing through their surgery and getting back to throwing hard and being healthy, it’s like, ‘Damn, dude. I want to be there, and I’m just not’, and it’s very frustrating."
That's what led him to visit Oak Brook's Sports Performance Center at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush. The Center recently installed Motion Capture Technology, which uses reflective markers and cameras to track the movement of athletes. It utilizes the same technology as video games and animated 3D movies.
"There’s so much that goes into a pitch and you get so overwhelmed with things," said Brittany Dowling, the Director of Biomechanics as Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush. "Now we can kind of pick it apart and really be able to tell the whole story of what’s happening. So I think this technology, on all levels, is really helpful."
Dowling has helped Major League Baseball teams navigate the technology and believes it'll become more and more important at the game's highest level.
"Now that all these teams are getting this, we’re going to get so much more data, and we’ll be able to track these players and be able to fine pick, ‘Hey, this guy who blew out his elbow – was it because of this, this and this?’ And we actually have the data now. So I think that’s really going to change where baseball goes," Dowling said.
Dr. Grant Garrigues, who's a White Sox team physician, thinks using the technology can do more than help rehabilitate injuries; it can help prevent them, too.
"We can have that person throw an entire career, achieve their full potential, not have some catastrophic injury," said Dr. Garrigues. "That’s huge. It’s huge financially for the pro organizations, it’s huge in life for the player and their dreams and hopes of achieving all they can achieve,."
Riley, who's 24 years-old, missed most of the 2018 season and all of 2019, but he says Motion Capture Technology got his career back on track, and now he's ready to get back on the mound this spring.
"There was points where I had some doubt, but this is the thing I love. I’ve been playing baseball since I was five, [now] lucky enough to play professionally," said the right-handed starter. "I’m 24, I’m still young, I can’t give it up. I was like, ‘I’m going to do anything and everything I need to do to get back to where I know I can be’, which is pitch at a very high level."