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Kristen Nicholson: The Science of Athletes in Motion

MAR 15, 2022
In this episode Kristen Nicholson discusses her journey from math student to baseball biomechanics expert.
Kristen Nicholson: The Science of Athletes in Motion

In this episode, Kristen Nicholson, the director of the Pitching Lab at Wake Forest University tells Chris Gorski about how her interest in math and the way the body moves eventually led to research assisting children with shoulder injuries, accomplished figure skaters and eventually baseball players. Nicholson also explains why it’s so difficult to study the motion of the shoulder, and how her work in the lab may be able to help pitchers stay healthier.

Here are some excerpts from the interview (the full transcript is available here ):

“We have a full state of the art biomechanics laboratory, we have the motion capture cameras, we also have some markerless cameras. We have force plates in our mound, and then we have the traditional like ball tracking devices. And so we’ve really been offering pitching evaluations for anybody that wants to come and get a pitching evaluation. And we also use it as a player development tool for the Wake Forest baseball players. They’re able to get kind of the full analysis several times a year, and then they can use the markerless system almost weekly to see their progression. …

“What’s the point in getting somebody to throw 100 miles per hour, if they’re gonna blow out their elbow? Then it doesn’t matter. So we got to keep them healthy in order to keep them on the field. And then we can focus on increasing their performance. And this efficiency kind of goes hand in hand. If you’re moving your body efficiently, that’s limiting the stresses on on the elbow and the shoulder. But it’s still going to be able to produce those high velocities, because you’re efficient, you’re creating energy, transferring it through the body efficiently, and then through to the ball. …

“I think kind of the most surprising thing is that that just the over the last three years, I’ve somehow become the baseball biomechanics expert, which I never would have expected. And MLB often comes to us and asks us to collaborate and we’ve done some stuff with them. And a couple of the teams have agreements where they send their players to us to get evaluated. So it’s been fun and exciting.”

Our next episode is scheduled to come out next week. Please like and subscribe to the show on your favorite platform. We hope you enjoy the interviews.

The Inside Science Conversations podcast showcases the human side of science. It’s about what makes scientists and researchers tick. We’ll cover a wide variety of subjects, from record-breaking running to the hidden history of science. Please, like and subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast platform. Join us as we talk to researchers and authors about their work, their lives and why science is important for everyone.

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