Enhancing athletic performance through AI
Injuries and bad habits can derail an athlete’s career and quality of life. Pascal McCarthy learned this first-hand when his professional volleyball career was cut short due to recurring injuries. That’s when he saw the gaps in the medical system when it comes to treating sports injuries, including concussions, and decided to do something about it.
His breakthrough work — used by early adopters in Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League and the Professional Golfers’ Association — stems from McCarthy’s initial master’s research in science and engineering at the University of New Brunswick. Supported by a Mitacs Accelerate Entrepreneur internship, he set out to develop wearable sensors to help predict when an athlete is at risk of concussion and to better understand the effects of a hit.
Assessing the physical and psychological
Now McCarthy is building on those early findings — which showed that bad habits can put athletes at higher risk of injury — to develop a more comprehensive performance and wellness platform. The novel approach, being advanced through his startup, Parados Cerebral Solutions Inc., combines a precise physical assessment with a psychological valuation to identify any imbalances, and more importantly, what causes them. “We’re able to look at every joint in the body as we guide people through specific movements to uncover bad habits and imperfections in balance and control what is affecting someone’s performance, leaving them prone to injury or interfering with their quality of life,” explains McCarthy.
The platform uses computer vision to detect a person’s silhouette over a webcam or smartphone video. It then accurately identifies the position of all their joints using an AI-based estimation model as they go through a set of evaluation exercises, such as squatting, walking, standing or balancing with their eyes closed.
The results are combined with answers from a clinically validated intake form used to determine mental health predictors such as stress, anxiety, depression, sleep deprivation, irritability and energy levels. Once the root cause of the imbalance is identified, proprietary algorithms suggest expert tips and training to efficiently correct bad habits and optimize performance.
McCarthy’s AI platform isn’t limited to athletes. “For some people, the goal is to be pain free, while for others it’s to run faster, and for athletes it might be to improve a golf swing, slap shot or hitting stance,” he says.
“For example, our tool might find that a person’s shoulders are too tight and they simply need exercises to de-stress and loosen up, or we might find that they physically can’t open their hips enough to adjust their golf swing. Whatever it is, we get to the root cause,” he adds.
McCarthy says the key differentiator between Parados and others in the pro athlete space is that his company connects physical and mental limits to performance. The platform also provides ongoing monitoring, supported by predictive analytics, to identify if performance is improving with therapy – and if not, makes adjustments.
While the company is currently focusing on athletic performance, McCarthy says the goal is to move into more mainstream medical diagnoses and treatment. The platform is currently offered as software as a service (SaaS) to consumers as well as professional trainers and therapists.
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