Muscle by muscle, this UVA startup company is revolutionizing sports medicine and beyond

By: Whitelaw Reid, UVA Today

A few years ago, a University of Virginia football player believed his injured hamstring had healed sufficiently and that he was ready to return to action.

All of the current medical evidence supported his thinking.

However, when UVA professors Silvia Blemker, Craig Meyer and Joe Hart put data from the magnetic resonance imaging into their proprietary software they found cause for concern. The team detected a giant knot of scar tissue that may have, sooner than later, proved problematic for the player. Further, they found several muscles surrounding the scar had been significantly affected by the injury, posing great potential risk for the player.

Such highly precise technology can help assure a safe return to action and, hopefully, keep injuries from recurring.

“The scan really revealed how the injury to a couple muscles influenced all of the muscles around it,” Blemker said.

“It highlighted the fact that high-level athletes might be able to do things to overcome the deficits from an injury,” Hart added.

But why should they have to? Do these compensations put athletes at higher risk for injury in the future?

This is the thinking behind Springbok Analytics – a Charlottesville-based company founded on technology invented by Blemker, Meyer and Hart – which, after seven years in development, went to market in March.

With so many bones and muscles in the body (there are 35 muscles alone in a human leg), figuring out precisely where a problem exists – or if one even exists at all – can be challenging even for the best doctors and physical therapists.

Springbok, named after the African antelope – which is considered one of the world’s fastest mammals – aims to take away a lot of the guesswork. The company’s patented software turns the black and white MRIs into color-coded 3-D renderings that measure and compare muscles to one another at a level of precision unavailable anywhere else in the world.

Read the UVA Today story here.